ETHICAL: adhering to ethical and moral principles; “it seems ethical and right; followed the only honorable course of action; had the moral courage to stand alone.” —Webster’s WordNet Dictionary
As an elected official John Manchester is prohibited by the state’s Ethics Code to supervise himself as a compensated employee. In a desperate attempt to untangle his messy, unethical “conflict of interest” the City Council has proposed the following amendment to the City Code: “The City Administrator shall report to the Mayor, however, when the Mayor and City Administrator are the same person, in that event, the City Administrator shall report and be responsible only to the elected City Council of the City of Lewisburg and shall serve at the will and pleasure of Council” (City Administrator Section 127.02 Qualifications).
I know what you’re thinking… “that’s pretty dumb.” And you’re right.
This amendment is nothing more than a cynical, backdoor scheme to defy the State’s Ethics Code. If adopted, the benefit will accrue to one person and one person only – John Manchester.
City services will not be delivered more efficiently or at a lower cost. In fact, just the opposite is true. How many successful businesses can you name that have more than one chief executive officer in charge? Under the proposed amendment the City Administrator will no longer report to the mayor but to the 5 voting members of the City Council.
What a joke! Sounds like a recipe for confusion, inefficiency and waste. All so John Manchester can continue to serve as both Mayor and City Administrator and so he can continue to pocket two (2) taxpayer funded paychecks instead of just one (1) in complete defiance of the Ethics Commission.
This is nothing more than a game of smoke and mirrors. The proposed amendment was not recommended by a team of management consultants, it was not driven by any desire to improve city services or to reduce the cost of providing those services. This proposed amendment is nothing more than a thinly disguised attempt by the Council to circumvent the West Virginia Ethics Commission to the exclusive benefit of – you guessed it – John Manchester.
Our constitution was based on the principle of “checks and balances.” In prohibiting elected municipal officials from supervising themselves in a compensated position the Ethics Commission is upholding this time honored, sacred principle.
This is a classic example of a “conflict of interest.” It has existed from the moment John Manchester was appointed City Administrator. It’s time for Manchester to do the right thing and resign as Mayor or City Administrator. Anything less – such as this ridiculous game of musical chairs – is a slap in the face of the citizens of Lewisburg and a violation of both the letter and the spirit of the Ethics Code. If the Council passes this unethical, self-serving amendment, they should be ashamed of themselves.
If you are opposed to this cynical scheme to manipulate the City Code to benefit one person and not the city as a whole, contact the city council and make your voice heard.
Otherwise, the City of Lewisburg will no longer be able to call itself the “Coolest Little Town in America” but rather the “Dumbest.”
This week I will file a complaint with the Ethics Commission. A copy of the proposed amendment will be attached. I believe it will be crystal clear to the Commission that the City Council is trying to hoodwink them. So, it’s out of my hands now – let the chips fall where they may.
Footnote: in the unlikely event that the Ethics Commission allows this amendment to go forward Manchester’s salary as Mayor should be reduced by 75 percent or more since he will no longer be the “chief executive officer” of Lewisburg. That would definitely be the right thing to do.