The Gilmer Free PressThe Clarksburg Exponent-Telegraph on Sunday, July 26, 2015 published the following article about whether the Harrison County Commission violated the State code in hiring of an County Administrator.

Gilmer County Commission has hired three administrators in past 3 or 4 years!

My question is: Did the Gilmer County Commission Violate section 7-1-1a of West Virginia Code?

CLARKSBURG EXPONENT TELEGRAM:
COUNTY CLERK: HARRISON COMMISSION MAY HAVE VIOLATED STATE CODE IN HIRING OF ADMINISTRATOR

CLARKSBURG — The Harrison County Commission may have violated a state law that dictates the process for modifying a county’s government when it hired County Administrator Willie Parker in 2013.

That’s according to County Clerk Susan Thomas, who pointed to section 7-1-1a of West Virginia Code, which outlines a series of steps to be followed before altering a county’s form of government — including the hiring of a county administrator. These steps include passing a resolution seeking approval from the Legislature and collecting signatures from 10 percent of the county’s registered voters.

Connie O Stinky Commissioner Administrator shown on right, with HESS, KENNEDY —

How it used to be in Gilmer County ….Connie O Stinky Gilmer County Commission Administrator shown on right, with HESS, (left)KENNEDY —” And is he a pitcher or a catcher? .. Darrel Ramsey,” whose son said dude had sex with a boy from the head start program when the son was drunk as hell at the folk festival back in 2010 the summer the Butcher Bitches BROKE BAD on the CalPatty Press.

“The way I look at it, they’re violating 7-1-1a and have been since he was hired,” Thomas said. “They never changed the form of government, and I think (Parker) is doing things that are outside the realm of what an administrative assistant would do. He’s making decisions I think that should be made by an elected official.”

The Taylor County Commission recently reversed its decision to hire a county administrator after consulting with prosecutors during a special meeting June 29.

Taylor County Assistant Prosecutor Shawn Nines said he informed the commissioners of 7-1-1a of state code as it applied to their hiring of a county administrator.

On June 12, the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals issued a memorandum decision in Nicholas County Commission v. Tim Clifford, another case pertaining to 7-1-1a.

In the case, the Supreme Court ruled 3-2, affirming a circuit court ruling that the Nicholas County Commission had hired a county administrator without following the steps outlined in state code for altering the form of county government.

“It is undisputed that the Commission’s actions were taken without complying with the requirements of West Virginia Code 7-1-1a,” the written decision states. “We find no error in the circuit court’s order annulling and vacating the position of county administrator and rescinding the hiring of (Nicholas County Administrator Roger) Beverage based upon its conclusion that the Commission bestowed upon Mr. Beverage as county administrator unfettered discretionary authority as to the affairs and administration of the Commission and, in doing so, changed the existing form of county government without first complying with any of the requirements of West Virginia Code 7-1-1a.”

But Parker and the commissioners who hired him drew distinctions between what transpired with the county administrators in Nicholas and Taylor counties and the situation in Harrison County.

Harrison County had established the position of county administrator prior to Parker’s hiring, a fact both Parker and Commission President Ron Watson were quick to point out.

“The county administrator had always been a part of the county for a number of years,” Watson said.

According to Thomas, the first record she could find of an individual officially holding the title of “county administrator” was James Harris, who was promoted to the position in 1998. Others served in administrative-type roles prior to Harris, Thomas noted.

Based on available records, the county administrator position was vacant from 2006 until 2013, when Parker was hired, according to Thomas.

Section 7-1-1a went into effect in 2008, according to an official with the West Virginia Legislature.

Regardless of whether the position had been created or not, Watson said the duties Parker performs do not constitute an alteration of the county government since there’s no transfer of power away from the county commission.

“In Willie’s case, anything that he has done since we’ve hired him, he’s been directed by the county commission, and he hasn’t generated that on his own,” Watson said. “It may have the appearance that he’s done something (on his own), but I can assure you and anyone else that any action he takes has gotten the approval of a county commissioner.”

Parker echoed that assessment, and he also pointed to Section 7-1-3m of West Virginia Code, which came up during the Nicholas County case and states that county commissions “are hereby empowered to employ, fix compensation for and discharge … personnel, including specialists and consultants, as may from time to time be necessary to aid (commissions) in exercising their powers or discharging their duties as provided by law and including a county administrator.”

Parker characterized his role as a staff member employed by the commissioners to aid them in carrying out their responsibilities.

“I don’t think the commission has given any level of their constitutional authority to me,” Parker said. “They’ve employed me to provide them recommendations, act on their behalf as they’ve so authorized, which is in line with 7-1-3m.”

Former commissioner Mike Romano said Parker’s role during his time on the commission didn’t violate 7-1-1a as he interprets it.

“The hiring of Mr. Parker as administrator was carefully considered by the commission in that he was hired to fill a role as the manager for the county commission,” Romano said. “He was not delegated any constitutional authority whatsoever, and he answers directly to the county commission in all actions he takes. That really takes the hiring out of the purview of a change in the form of government, because the county commission still maintains full control over all of its constitutionally delegated duties.”

Section 7-1-1a, for its purposes, describes the responsibilities of a county administrator in part as having “the authority to direct the administration of the county government under the supervision of the county commission. The county administrator shall carry out, execute and enforce all ordinances, policies, rules and regulations of the commission.” However, the description goes on to say that the county administrator would have the authority to “appoint or employ all subordinates and employees for whose duties or work he or she is responsible to the commission.”

Parker said he has no authority to hire or discharge staff.

According to the Supreme Court’s decision, Nicholas County officials who had their appeal struck down had made a similar argument regarding their hiring of a county administrator.

“Petitioners argue that the evidence showed that Mr. Beverage was not given all of the powers of a ‘county administrator’ as contemplated by West Virginia Code 7-1-1a because he was not permitted to hire or discharge employees; was not a member of the county commission; and would not have full decision-making authority,” the decision reads.

Thomas said she wants to make sure there’s a clear statutory basis for the duties Parker performs and expressed concern that — without approval from the Legislature and from voters — an unelected official was assuming responsibilities in Harrison County that should fall to the elected constitutional officers.

“I’m very concerned,” Thomas said. “I’m not only concerned as a public official, but I’m also concerned as a taxpayer.”

~~  Jeremiah Shelor ~~