Councilman, clerk object to Philippi mayor casting vote

PHILIPPI – Philippi Mayor Jerry Mouser attempted to cast a vote at Tuesday’s Philippi City Council meeting, but was not able to after one council member objected and the city clerk refused to help Mouser cast a vote.

Mouser, who ran the meeting, called for a vote regarding a 911 addressing and mapping issue. City Council voted 3-2 to table the issue. Then Mouser said he was going to cast a vote as well, citing state code that he said gave him the right to vote on any issue before Council.

Councilman Ed Larry interrupted, saying he wanted to call a point of order. Larry cited Philippi City Code, which he said trumped the state code cited by Mouser.

West Virginia State Code 8-9-2, which Mouser referred to, says the mayor and city recorder are authorized to vote unless it is “otherwise provided by charter provision,” or in the case of a tie.

Larry said that section 12 of the city charter states that a mayor can only vote to break a tie.

Mouser then said he would temporarily turn over control of the meeting to City Clerk Tammy Stemple so that he could vote on the 911 issue. This has been the practice at past meetings when Mouser wanted to participate in a vote, but Stemple would not agree to take over the meeting Tuesday.

Stemple cited the city charter in refusing to assume control of the meeting. She said section 12 of city code states that only the mayor or a council member selected by the majority of the members may preside over a meeting.

“I’m not going to be put in a position, with all due respect – mayor or Council – as a city clerk just to be handed control of Council so that you can vote whenever you so choose,” Stemple said. “I’m not going to be put in that position, ethically.”

Mouser remained silent as Stemple asked what the vote was so she could enter it into the official minutes. Both Larry and City Manager Karen Weaver said the vote was 3 to 2.

The vote that was facing Council at the time was whether or not to table the decision to allow E-911 addressing and mapping to continue in Philippi, and seek more information from other cities in West Virginia that have opted out of the E-911 system.

Council members Barbara Brian and Jeff Allen voted against the motion, while Council members Larry, John Green and Terrence Boyd voted in favor of it.

Larry warned Mouser at a public work session held immediately prior to Tuesday’s City Council meeting that if the mayor tried to vote, he would call a point of order.

“If you want to protest it, then protest it,” Mouser said at the work session. “(West Virginia State Code 8-9-2) says I can vote on any and every issue.”

Larry then gave Mouser a folder which contained copies of the city code and information to read in relation to the matter. Larry said he spoke with Joan Parker, the executive director of the West Virginia Ethics Commission, and sought her opinion.

“I’m going to vote, and until I get something from Charleston…” Mouser said, but was interrupted by Larry, who said the information was “right there” in the folder.

“Mr. Larry, I don’t care about that piece of paper you have laying there,” Mouser said.

“I care about that piece of paper,” Larry replied.

Other Council members got involved in the discussion during the work session, as well.

“As a governing body, if we’re voting on something and it comes back as a violation, I don’t want to have something out there,” Boyd said.

At the Dec. 17 City Council meeting, Mouser temporarily placed Stemple in charge of the meeting, thereby allowing him to vote on the rezoning of residential property to commercial property on Wabash Street in Philippi. Members voted 4-2 to approve the rezoning.

At a public work session held immediately prior to the Dec. 17 City Council meeting, Mouser and Larry got into a heated exchange about letters Mouser wrote to the Philippi Municipal Building Commission, the West Virginia Ethics Commission and the West Virginia State Auditor’s office about the Building Commission having four year’s worth of non-completed audits.

Philippi City Council did not meet in January.