Fox says appointment to PCDA was not unethical
Bill Fox appeared at the Nov. 4 Paden City Council meeting to question the rescinding of his appointment to the Paden City Development Authority (PCDA).
His appointment to the PCDA occurred at the Sept. 3 regular meeting and was then rescinded at the Oct. 7 regular meeting. At that time, a possible ethics violation was cited as the reason for his removal from the PCDA.
Mayor John Hopkins stated at the previous meeting that a conflict of interest had occurred when Larry Potts, a councilman who is also on the PCDA, voted on the matter in favor of appointing Fox. When Fox asked if there had been a complaint to the W.Va. Ethics Commission, Hopkins said that the commission had been contacted about the matter.
“I’d like to know where we stand on the development authority replacement,” said Fox.
“The ordinance is going to be looked at and we’ve got to get council together,” said Mayor Hopkins, speaking of an ordinance signed by Fox when he was mayor.
That ordinance states: “To fill vacancies, on the authority board, notice shall be posted, on June 15 to June 30, of each year, requesting persons to submit, in writing, to the common council, their desire to be appointed to such authority board. Name, address, and phone number shall be included in such written request.
“On the first regular council meeting in July of each year, such vacancies shall be filled, as needed, to the authority board and shall serve for a period of three years: effective on July 1 of each year.”
Hopkins stated that they had not gotten around to looking at the ordinance yet.
Fox asked for clarification on the basis of the council’s decision to rescind his appointment from the PCDA.
“If (the appointment) wasn’t done correctly, and I’ll take the blame for that,” said Hopkins, explaining that Potts was a member of council as well as a member of the PCDA and therefore could not make a motion and vote on the appointment.
“You’re saying it was an ethics problem?” asked Fox.
“Yes, and I’ve got a request into the ethics commission,” said Hopkins. “I’ve got a response, I just haven’t seen it in writing yet.”
“Well I have one, and I’ve got it in writing,” said Fox, offering to provide the name of the commission member who made the response, as well as his phone number. “There is no violation, it’s not an ethics issue at all.”
“I knew we ran into this before,” said Hopkins. “You can’t be on both and vote on both things.”
“What do we do with the Park and Pool?” asked Fox, wanting to know what happens if members of council who are on Park and Pool vote on Park and Pool matters.
“Council doesn’t appoint Park and Pool members,” said Hopkins. “The mayor appoints Park and Pool members.”
Fox said he received his answer from an attorney at the ethics commission.
Mayor Hopkins stated he received answers on the matter from the city attorney and the ethics commission.
“If you recall several years ago, council decided they would appoint themselves to the PCDA board and they found out that couldn’t be done,” he said.
“They don’t have anything to gain,” said Fox. “(Councilman) Larry (Potts) doesn’t have a thing to gain by appointing someone to the development authority.”
Hopkins stated that it was still a matter of ethics.
“I’ll give you a name and phone number and exactly what I requested from him,” said Fox regarding the ethics commission representative with whom he spoke.
He then handed the information he brought with him to Recorder Tami Billiter. There were no other public comments.
In financial matters, Mayor Hopkins noted that the city was obligated to send $6,000 a year to the library from the Coal Severance Fund. He said that another $5,000 in the General Fund Budget would also be going toward the library.
Council unanimously approved the second reading of an ordinance pertaining to employee raises. The ordinance provides a $1 per hour raise to city employees who complete certification for their jobs. If at any time that certification expires or is lost, the raise is rescinded.
They approved the purchase of two new police cruisers. The payments will be deferred until the beginning of the next fiscal year. The funds budgeted for the purchase of cruisers will be used to equip them with the legal necessities.
In order to make the payments on these vehicles, council will have to increase the capital outlay for police cruiser purchases by $2,000 for the next fiscal year. That will put the outlay at a total of $12,000 a year.
Council unanimously approved the payment of Class II Certification Classes for Water Plant Operator Josh Billiter. Because certification usually involves 2,000 hours at a Class II Water Plant, which the city does not have, Billiter will be taking a $20 test online to achieve certification.
Council voted to authorize Mayor Hopkins to send a letter to the owner of the property of 122 North Third Avenue. The letter will address neglected maintenance on the property, which is reportedly affecting those who live near and beside it.
Councilman Tom Trader noted that he brought up this issue months ago when a resident brought it to his attention. He said that while it might became a financial matter for the city, people who take care of their properties should not have to deal with such issues.
In other property news, Councilman Dan Probst reported that four properties in “bad shape” were sold on the courthouse steps and will hopefully be cleaned up when the new owners take legal possession of them.
Council took action to limit parking on North Second Avenue to the east side of the street. The signs will be changed and there will be no parking on the west side.
In other parking-related matters, a parking issue on Middlebourne Place was resolved when council moved to prohibit parking on either side of the street. Councilman Probst stated that the street on Middlebourne Place is only 16 feet wide, which creates legal and safety issues when there is parking on either side.
“The state code says there must be at least eight feet to park a vehicle along the street,” he said. “To get an emergency vehicle up the street, you have to have 15 feet or more. We’ve got 16 feet. Eight of it is going to parking. If we put no parking on one side, it’s still not enough to get emergency vehicles up that street because it’s only 16 feet wide. Most of the streets in town that we’ve got parking on one side or the other is 24 feet, which keeps us in compliance with the state code. My suggestion is to put no parking on both sides. It’s not wide enough to park on one side or the other.”
He then made a motion to allow parking on neither side; that motion was seconded by Councilman Potts, and it was passed unanimously.
“I wanted to talk about using some of the street paving money to grind these things out,” said Mayor Hopkins of fixing potholes.
He presented a bid of $9,300 from J&T Paving to repave sections of several damaged roads. Council accepted that bid.
Councilman Trader read the Paden City Volunteer Fire Company’s October report.
“Motor Vehicle Accidents were three, service calls were one, and mutual aid was one,” he said.
Councilman Probst read the October report for the Paden City Police Department: “Four assist other agencies; one motor assist; one escort; three delivering messages; one DV order served; three search warrants; 21 tickets; 30 warnings; three domestic violence calls; two drug-related calls; seven crimes investigated; and $976 in fines collected.”
Under building and grounds: Mayor Hopkins discussed a possible variance on a carport for residents on Westerman Street. According to him, a garage had been built in the alleyway several years ago and the residents currently living there would like to place an awning above the existing foundation. Council unanimously approved that request.
Under park and pool: Sidewalks were finished by the boat docks, the Haunted Trail was a reported success with a rough count of 425 kids, and five campers are still staged at the park. Work on the pool and a baseball field dugout were cited as priorities.
Regarding sewer activity, Mayor Hopkins reported that flow testing is continuing. He is expecting an update from the engineer at the next Sewer Board meeting.
Council entered executive session concerning the police department. Upon returning to the regular meeting, no decisions were made.
In new business, council adopted a resolution for “American Education Week” for Nov. 18-22. That program is sponsored by American Legion Auxiliary Unit 86. Council also adopted a resolution for “Christian Heritage Week” for Nov. 24-30.
City bills were paid and minutes of the Oct. 7 regular meeting were approved.