Heather Rice Appointed As Sistersville Interim Recorder
Sistersville Council met Feb. 26 to appoint an interim recorder after Chad Edward’s March 2 departure. Council appointed Heather Rice, the daughter-in-law of Mayor Bill Rice. Because they are related, City Attorney Krista Fleegle advised them on setting conditions to avoid any potential ethics commission violations regarding nepotism and conflict of interest. The conditions are as follows: the interim city recorder shall not directly report to the mayor but to the council; the mayor shall recuse himself from any voting decisions regarding the Interim City Recorder (unless such decision affects a class of five or more employees); the mayor shall refrain from any action resulting in a conflict of interest whether conflict is actual or perceived, and a third party individual from council shall be designated as signatory on the banking and financial accounts of the City of Sistersville.
The council met again on Feb. 27 to discuss concerns regarding these conditions. After coming out of executive session, council voted to change the condition dealing with the financial accounts. Mayor Bill Rice and Interim Recorder Heather Rice were given access to all city financial accounts. Any check written by the city, to the mayor or recorder, must be signed by a third party.
Council member Alex King voted against this motion.
“I voted against allowing the mayor and his daughter-in-law to be the only two signatures on most city checks. I know there are other accountability measures in place, and I trust the character of the people involved. It’s just that one little mistake, no matter how innocent, could reflect negatively on everyone and raise questions in the public eye.
“I don’t like the position it puts us all in. The reversal of council’s previous decision was because the charter says the mayor and recorder have to be the ones who sign the checks. In this occasion, when the mayor and recorder are related, I would rather go against the charter with plans to amend it on behalf of public trust than to follow it into an unwise situation. Perhaps there is another fix to this we haven’t thought of yet,” King said.
During that meeting, council also voted to have Chief Wastewater Operator Jason Rice to report to Council member Bob Gilmore as his direct supervisor to avoid a conflict of interest.
Finally, it was voted to pay interim recorder Heather Rice the former recorder’s salary of $13.59 an hour.