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New subpoenas to be issued in hearing over Morgantown Firefighter pay dispute

MORGANTOWN — The Morgantown Fire Civil Service Commission has allowed the issuance of new subpoenas for additional testimony from Morgantown City Manager Kim Haws and Human Resources Director John Bihun as part of the commission’s hearing of claims the city used new personnel rules to retaliate against its firefighters by illegally reducing their pay. 

The three-member panel convened for about an hour Thursday morning at BOPARC’s Marilla Center in order to rule on the subpoena request from Josh Miller of Toriseva Law, representing International Association of Firefighters Local 313, and continue the hearing to a yet-undetermined date after Jan. 1.

Both Haws and Bihun were previously subpoenaed and among the first to offer testimony when the hearing opened on Oct. 17.

Miller said subsequent information brought to light during the Nov. 16 testimonies of Assistant City Manager Emily Muzzarelli and Kathy Pineault, who handles payroll in the city’s human resources department, warrants further investigation with Haws and Bihun.

“[Muzzarelli] gave additional information, both numbers-wise regarding the changes; financial numbers. She also talked about what I believe to be intent behind the pay changes. Those are things I want to explore further with Bihun and Haws,” Miller said. “Those are the two areas at the heart of this matter, the discipline and what we believe to be a pay decrease. Obviously the city thinks it’s a pay increase.”

Miller said he would also like to address a Nov. 11 change to the city’s pay plan that occurred following their initial testimony. 

Kay Casto & Chaney attorney Matt Elshiaty said the city objected to the request, just as it did for the initial subpoenas, but recognized the commission’s discretion on the matter.

Commissioner Wes Prince said while the body was allowing the new subpoenas, Miller’s questioning will need to stay focused on new information and will only occur after the remaining five members of Morgantown City Council take the stand.

All seven members of council were among those subpoenaed. So far, Bill Kawecki and Dave Harshbarger have offered testimony.

There were no witnesses present to testify Thursday.

It was pointed out that in addition to the three commissioners, who are not paid for their time, there were five attorneys, a court reporter and both the city clerk and deputy city clerk present for the hearing.

“We need to have the people here. I’m a taxpayer and I see the dollar signs. To keep bringing counsel, attorneys back and having other witnesses not show up, I find it unacceptable,” Commissioner Charlie Sims said.

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