OUR VIEW: Perry, Council need to move forward

Mineral Daily News-Tribune
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There is, as the pundits of today are fond of saying, “a lot to unpack” as we take a look at the chain of events in the ongoing dispute over the vacant Keyser City Council seat.

In researching the city charter and ordinances and Robert’s Rules of Order, it would seem that some actions were correctly taken, some missteps were taken, and some actions to correct those missteps were just as incorrect as the actions they were intended to set right.

Let’s take a look at the timeline:

Nov. 18: The council votes to appoint Curtis Perry to the seat left vacant by William Zacot’s resignation in September. Billy Meek made the motion, which was seconded by Jim Hannas, and it passed 5-0.

Prior to the motion, mayor Damon Tillman had actually tried to appoint someone else to the position, and Hannas made a motion to accept his recommendation. The motion died for lack of a second and Tillman then asked if the council had any suggestions.

That was when Meek brought up Perry’s name, with a reasoning that made sense to us: Perry was the next in line after Hannas, Mike Ryan and Meek were elected on July 28.

Everything seems to have been done by the book. It was after that, however, that “the book” started getting a little hard to interpret.

Dec. 9: Council member Hannas makes a motion to rescind the appoint of Curtis Perry, saying after the appointment, and after Perry had been informed of the appointment, it came to Hannas’ attention that Perry had previously filed ethics violations against him and other members of council.

Jennifer Junkins seconded his motion to rescind, and the vote was Hannas and Junkins for and Meek against. Ryan did not vote.

Mayor Tillman declared the motion had passed.

First of all, the question was raised whether Hannas could actually make a motion to rescind someone else’s original motion.

According to Robert’s Rules of Order, however, Section 37 “Rescind, Repeal or Annul,” a motion to rescind “may be made by any member.”

Hannas, therefore, was within his rights to make the motion. What he did not do, which is stipulated in Robert’s Rules of Order, is give notice of his intention to make the motion during a previous meeting.

Arguably, he had no time, as the previous meeting was when the appointment was made, but in order to follow proper procedure, Hannas should have announced his intentions on Dec. 9, then had the issue placed on the agenda for the Jan. 13 meeting.

Robert’s Rules of Order goes on to say a motion to rescind may be made without notice “by a two-thirds vote, or by a vote of the majority of the entire membership.”

Hannas did not have either, because the vote taken that night was not sufficient for the motion to pass.

Jan. 13: Council member Hannas announces it is his intention to again make a motion to rescind Perry’s appointment during the next council meeting on Jan. 27.

There was no further discussion.

Jan. 27: Hannas once again makes the motion to rescind Perry’s appointment, and Junkins seconds it. This time, the motion carries 3-1, with Ryan voting in favor and Meek again voting no.

Obviously the issue was discussed among the city officials since the previous meeting. Whether the discussion was held in a manner that could possibly be a violation of the West Virginia Open Meetings Law is undetermined at this time.

The main issue brought to light here, however, is that neither vote to rescind may have been appropriate because there is yet another protocol that seems to have been violated.

Again, according to Robert’s Rules of Order, “votes cannot be rescinded after something has been done as a result of that vote that the assembly cannot undo … or where one has been elected to, or expelled from, membership or office, and was present or has been officially notified.”

Mr. Perry was not present at the council meeting when he was appointed,, but by every account he was notified of the action shortly after.

That would make the votes to rescind - both of them - improper.

So where does all this leave us?

In our opinion, it leaves Mr. Perry still appointed, even though he has not been administered the oath of office.

Councilman Meek made a good point. Maybe the council should go with the will of the people whose votes in the July 28 election put Perry next in line for a seat.

Mr. Perry, who did nothing wrong in filing an ethics complaint against the council - a right which any citizen can exercise - has already said such actions would stop once he gets on the council.

Once a member of council, he said he would express his opinions through his vote.

We do take issue, however, with his statement in Friday’s letter to the editor that he filed the complaints because he “wanted to bring attention to the city council’s shady dealings.”

Such motivations are the very reason important issues get bogged down in the mess of unnecessary actions - a situation that can get quite costly for all those involved.

So what is the bottom line here?

We believe Mr. Perry has a right to take that seat on council, and everyone - from the mayor to every member of council and every city employee - needs to put this mess behind them and pledge to work together for the betterment of the city.

Whether the problem has been caused by egos, or clashing personalities, or just plain hard-headedness, they need to put their personal feelings behind them and do the right thing.