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Claims refuted at city council

By Staff | Mar 12, 2014

A former mayor of Sistersville spoke up at the city council meeting Monday night, held at the town’s fire hall, to refute some claims of him overspending.

At first, Lisa Fox, wife of former mayor Dave Fox, spoke during the public forum portion of the meeting. She said that at February’s meeting she had requested information because it was published in the Tyler Star News that the majority of the mayor’s budget was not spent by current Mayor Ann Doig, implying it was spent by her husband.

While Councilman Mark Klages, member of the finance committee who had made such statements in the newspaper article, was not in attendance in person, he was there via speakerphone.

Lisa Fox asked Klages to explain the statements. He said that based on the financial reports he received, it showed a higher burn rate when Fox was in office. She questioned the meaning of that statement.

Councilman Mitch Corley, who is also on the finance committee, said, “The burn rate, I believe, is when you are halfway through the year, you should be at 50 percent.”

Dave Fox was in office, during this fiscal year, from July 1 to Sept. 9. He left office because he no longer lives in Sistersville.

Lisa Fox further asked who was on the finance committee. She was told that Klages, Corley, and Craig Pritchard, who was not at Monday’s meeting, comprised the committee.

She told council she did a Freedom of Information Act request for financial reports and said, “It shows it was just payroll and the taxes on the payroll.” Further, she said Klages said that more bills came in “and the budget shows that absolutely not one bill came in. Why are statements being announced and it’s not the truth?”

Klages said he has several bills he went over and if Lisa Fox wants to come in, sit down, and go over the details, they can sit down with the city attorney.

“This is about me, so let me go ahead and take over,” said Dave Fox. “Are you aware of one bill of any kind that I did?”

Corley answered, “Not that I’m aware of.”

“Let that be known, I didn’t spend a penny,” declared Dave Fox to the public meeting.

The former mayor said his only expenditures were his mobile phone (one of 10 in the city’s plan), $250 per month wages, and the taxes on the wages.

“Don’t talk about me in the newspapers and don’t talk about me in a meeting” said Dave Fox.

Councilman Bill Rice spoke up and said he believed what Klages was referring to was the faulty program by CSSI the city is using. “What he is talking about is the program . . . that is not calculating correctly,” said Rice.

In the past, the mayor’s budget only included wages. However, during Ann Doig’s short interim tenure, the city has also purchased four tires (to replace two that were slashed) and a battery.

Nothing the mayor’s salary is only $3,700, Rice said, “So it wouldn’t take very much to put you over the 50 percent.”

Rice continued, “I told you guys several months ago that this budget wasn’t right.”

City Attorney Carolyn Flannery stopped the conversation and said public comment is for public comment, and if there is an issue for the finance committee, then that is where it needs to go.

“This is going to be a big argument that isn’t going to get anyone anywhere,” said Flannery.

Dave Fox continued speaking, saying in the past there has been talk about possible repercussions when councilmen are not attending meetings. Klages has attended one regular council meeting in the three months since he has been appointed. “If you become mayor,” Dave Fox said to Rice, “he has been to one meeting out of three. If he can’t be here to represent the people . . .”

“How can you sit there and say that when Richard Long hasn’t been to how many in months?” questioned Rice. That statement was met with applause by many of those in attendance at Monday night’s meeting.

Rice said he would like a list of attendance for the past year. Dave Fox suggested he go back four years and check Rice’s attendance. Rice replied that he missed meetings in the past, implying during Dave Fox’s tenure, “because it wasn’t even constructive to attend them in the past.”

At that point one person in attendance said that at a meeting prior to Christmas, somebody said that people who don’t live in Sistersville don’t have a say in what goes on in council meetings.

Mayor Doig spoke up, “Council meeting is open to everyone, but the people who don’t live here don’t have a say in what happens in this city.”

Switching gears, Dave Fox questioned the city’s recent practice of having council meetings in the fire hall, such as Monday night’s meeting. He said the charter says they are to be held at the city building. Continuing, Fox said the city had a complaint that they were out of compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“If you decide you can’t have council meetings in the city building, you have to get rid of the police force and water department (out of the city building). Is that not correct?” asked Fox.

After a general response of those in attendance that his statement wasn’t true, Rice said he had talked with the Municipal League that day and a representative said she didn’t understand why the city wouldn’t want to move for the council meetings.

Flannery explained that the charter does call for it to be held at the municipal building, but ethics opinions say you can move them temporarily for the convenience of the public. She said she doesn’t know the exact definition of temporarily, but at some point the city will have two options: come into compliance or amend the charter.

“As with all small municipalities, funding is always an issue,” noted Flannery. “It’s not going to work long term unless they amend the charter that allows them to have it somewhere other than the municipal building.”

Scharlene Koerber asked how Dave Fox would know about a complaint, saying she thought it would be private.

“The complainant, whoever it is against, decides whether it is private or not,” said Dave Fox.

“I don’t think the person who made the complaint thought it was that way,” said Koerber. “I am the public and I didn’t know anything about a complaint. And I’m the one that has the disability.”

Mayor Doig said everyone knows about the ADA complaint as it has been going back and forth in meeting discussions.

“In the town of Sistersville you hear all kinds of things,” said Dave Fox. “I heard there was a complaint.”