O’Neill appointed to Buckhannon Council

Tom O’Neill was appointed to the vacancy on the Buckhannon City Council Thursday after a debate spanning multiple meetings on how such appointments should be handled.

O’Neill will fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Scott Preston, who stepped down because of changes with his job that resulted in his inability to attend meetings. O’Neill received the next highest amount of votes in the same city election as Preston.

“I’m happy to be in a position to serve,” O’Neill said, adding that he would have supported the City Council with its decision regardless of what it was.

The process for selecting the new councilman sparked disagreements at times among council members. Mayor Kenneth Davidson, city attorney David McCauley and other city officials all have mentioned that the city charter for Buckhannon is vague when it comes to the filling of vacancies on the city council. They said the charter states only that the City Council “shall” appoint a person to the position.

Council allowed a period of time to pass to give those interested in the vacancy a chance to express their desire to serve. O’Neill, Michael Cowger, Michael Livesay, Keith “Skeeter” Queen and Christine Bennett all expressed an interest in the position. A new name and letter of interest was presented at Thursday’s council meeting from Mike Sharpolisky. Davidson acknowledged that the letter was sent to him on April 2, but it had not appeared on the agenda.

“They’re all fine, outstanding people; any one of them would make a great councilman,” said Councilman Ron Pugh, adding that he felt that because O’Neill expressed his interest in the position earlier than other candidates by running for the position and devoting his time and resources toward achieving that goal, O’Neill should be the one appointed. But not all members of the City Council shared that opinion.

“I just think it’s a confusing thing because some of the candidates that are interested in the position have run for mayor at different times and didn’t win, or (ran for) council,” Waltz said.

Pugh made the motion to appoint O’Neill, but Councilmen John Waltz and Pam Cuppari voted against the appointment. Cuppari said that because City Council invited letters of interest in the vacancy, members should have gone through an interview process prior to making a decision.

Councilman Dave Thomas seconded the motion, but rescinded his second in support of the proposed interviews. He then changed his mind and reiterated his second, also voting to support the appointment.

City Recorder Rich Clemens also voted in favor of the appointment. Had he not done so, the vote would have ended in a tie. Prior to the vote, Davidson said that if it were up to him, he would appoint O’Neill, but he didn’t extend his vote.

Cuppari said she believes that the city charter language, which she believes created the initial confusion in the appointment process, needs to be revised.