While it is still two weeks before the Independence Day, fireworks flew Monday evening at the Delbarton City Council as a heated discussion ensued concerning the naming of a new council member.
Mayor Elmer Ray Spence suggested the decision be postponed because Councilman Albert Totten was out of town on vacation during the meeting.
“I think we have enough here to vote,” Councilwoman Rachel Chambers-Bowen responded. The other council members agreed with her.
Spence then presented each member of the council with a ballot containing the names he had been given of people interested in serving on the council.
“The four of you can vote and I will break any tie,” Spence said.
The “four” to whom he referred to were council members Chambers-Bowen, Robert Hunt and Ralph Maynard and Recorder Medina Mahon.
Maynard and Hunt objected stating that the recorder does not have a vote on council matters and serves as the official tie-breaker with the mayor only breaking a tie if the recorder abstains.
“The recorder can vote,” Spence replied. “Under West Virginia code the mayor breaks all ties. You may have done it that way under the old mayor, but that’s not the law.”
“I’ll call the Secretary of State tomorrow and then I’ll know,” Maynard said. “If I’m wrong then I’m wrong.”
Hunt agreed with Maynard’s opinion.
“When I was on the council before, the recorder never voted,” Hunt stated.
“Show me where the code says that,” Spence said. “Becky (the previous Town Recorder Rebecca Fouch) voted on other matters.”
Both Hunt and Maynard disagreed with the mayor on that point and said that she did not. They cited the selection of Chamber-Bowen as a replacement for former Councilman Mark Sizemore who resigned at the beginning of the current administration last year. During that process, a tie vote occurred between the four councilmen and Fouch cast the tie breaking vote.
Town Recorder Medina Mahon said that it was her understanding that the recorder could vote. On the other hand Fouch told the Mingo Messenger that during her tenure as recorder, she was always told the recorder only voted in the event of a tie vote.
Maynard said he was referred to the West Virginia Municipal League and to the state’s Ethics Commission. The opinion he received was that if the town had set a precedent on the matter by general practice in the past, then that method would be proper.
The West Virginia Secretary of State’s Election Guide sets the make-up of a governing body for municipalities which includes a mayor, recorder and five council members — all of which have voting power. However, that is if the municipality does not have a city charter. Then the Election Guide defers to the charter.
A representative of the Municipal League also told the Mingo Messenger the town’s city charter should be the source for proper information. Mahon said she would pull the charter when she went back to Town Hall on Thursday and would research the 1946 document for details.
In the end, the council decided to vote on the matter with only Chambers-Bowen, Hunt and Maynard participating in the vote. Fouch was elected to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of former Councilman Glen Dale Canada by a vote of 2-1.
The vote prompted questions by members of the public who attended the meeting stating, “You should let someone new get it,” and asking questions such as, “Why would she give up recorder and then want to be a council person?”
Fouch will be sworn in during the next meeting.