By Peggy Mackenzie
The Lewisburg City Council held a special meeting on Tuesday evening, the bulk of which was spent behind closed doors in executive session to discuss a personnel issue concerning the city administrator’s merit review. Although no official city business was concluded following the hour-long session, council did announce that an opinion was made by the West Virginia Ethics Commission (WVEC) regarding a complaint questioning the legality of the city’s mayor, John Manchester, also employed as the city administrator.
The complaint, originally posed by Terry Wodder, was filed last February by the city council to the WVEC. That body came back with a dismissal of the complaint without investigation, as “the issue did not set forth a material violation of the Ethics Act.”
The meeting’s agenda included an item, “Consideration of City Charter changes.” The press posed a question: “How is it that the closed door discussion of the charter is an exception to the Sunshine Law?”
Council asserted the Sunshine Law was not violated because changes to the city’s charter were not directly addressed. The charter needs better definitions, and the personnel issues under discussion “fold into considerations about the charter.” Specifically, council member Josh Baldwin said, the city administrator merit review issue “has ties with the charter.”
“Certain forms of government, as established by the state of West Virginia, are found not to cover the city of Lewisburg, as it was founded before the state existed,” said Baldwin. Legal counsel will need to handle the issue. Any discussion of changes to the city’s charter will be held in an open session and will be an on-going process over the