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Conflicts of interest must be openly addressed at meetings

By Staff | Aug 21, 2013

West Virginia Legislative Code 6B-2-5, which defines ethical standards for elected and appointed officials and public employees, states public officials may not vote on a personnel matter involving the public official’s spouse or relative.

Furthermore, it states that, “for a public official’s recusal to be effective, it is necessary to excuse him or herself from participating in the discussion and decision-making process by physically removing him or herself from the room during the period, fully disclosing his or her interests, and recusing him or herself from voting on the issue.”

Councilman Bill Schleier did not follow this code during last week’s Sistersville Council meeting. The appointed councilman is married to Recorder Julie Schleier. When the council went into executive session to discuss a raise for her, Bill Schleier was present in the executive session.

When a roll call vote is not taken on a matter, as is often the case because a simple vocal vote is usually enough to determine a governing body’s pleasure, it is difficult to tell if every individual votes on a matter. This was the case concerning the vote on the proposed Recorder’s raise in Sistersville on Aug. 12. When council voted in favor of the raise, with only Bill Rice voicing opposition, Bill Schleier appeared to remain silent.

Mr. Schleier did not state at the time that he abstained from the matter. Only later did he tell the Tyler Star News that he abstained from voting.

When Mr. Schleier was appointed to fill a vacant council seat in May, the move raised a few eyebrows, given his relationship with the recorder.

Last week’s inappropriate actions, particularly Bill Schleier’s presence in the executive session, where the public and press are not allowed to witness any influence he may or may not have had in the decision-making process, only make those concerns more valid.