Mayor’s comments raise ire
PHILIPPI – Following the adjournment of a Philippi City Council meeting Tuesday, Mayor Jerry Mouser alleged that three council members may have been in violation of the state Ethics Commission’s rules because they gathered afterward.
He said council members John Green, Terrence Boyd and Ed Larry grouped together and talked after the meeting. If they discussed city business, they would be in violation of the Sunshine Laws, Mouser said.
The accusation did not sit well with the accused council members.
“We weren’t discussing city business,” Green said Wednesday. “If we were discussing city business, it would be different. It just makes me look bad. I didn’t do anything wrong.”
“That accusation, it bothers me and it upsets me because it’s not true,” Boyd said. “When you throw things out there in printed format, people will take that as the gospel. I try to do what’s right, and I don’t want anything out there where people will have a skewed view of me. When you make accusations like that, make sure it’s true.”
Boyd said he was gathering his coat and belongings and that he does not believe the discussion among the council members was in violation of Sunshine Laws.
“Part of the discussion (between the three accused council members) stems around comments that were made during the meeting,” Boyd said. “We commented on the threats that were made. The state code states that you can’t threaten or harass a public official, but it was just a general comment. As far as official business – no. We were talking about going home and having dinner and that was it.
“When you make accusations like that, that are unfounded and not substantiated, it continues to keep things stirred up,” Boyd continued.
“What we did last night – walking out and talking – that is no different than any other meeting that I’ve had since I’ve been on Council for (the last) six years.”
Larry, who also was accused by Mouser, said the alleged post-meeting gathering didn’t happen.
“Stuff like that was ridiculous,” Larry said. “That was not a meeting. That was after the meeting. … It’s a shame that something like that is even thought of or said.
“What do we have to do, walk out one at a time and stay separated by 30 feet or something?” Larry questioned. “I don’t understand. That wasn’t a meeting. Here we are, we were leaving a Council meeting, that’s all that was. Furthermore, I would never, ever do anything unethical especially to the people of Philippi. We’re there to serve and we’re there to help.”
Mouser said Wednesday that private citizens also allegedly witnessed a meeting between the three council members.
“I was told today that they actually locked the door and they were back in the empty room where we normally have our work (session) meeting,” Mouser said. “The citizens told me that.”
Mouser’s accusation about the council members follows a 3-2 vote that passed at the meeting allowing Philippi to opt in to the E-911 addressing and mapping system. The topic has spanned several meetings in the recent months from the later months of 2013 to Tuesday’s meeting. On numerous occasions, Mouser has made his stance on the matter very clear – he’s said he is against the E-911 addressing and mapping system for Philippi, and that it is his understanding that the majority of Philippi citizens feel the same way.
“He (Mouser) didn’t get his way, so he wants to take it out on us,” Green said.
Green alleged that the mayor published an article in another local newspaper stating that he and Council members Barbara Bryan and Jeff Allen met at the residence of the Philippi Municipal Judge Larry Jett. Bryan and Allen both voted against the motion for Philippi to opt in to E-911 system at the meeting.
“And we never said anything about it,” Green said. “I don’t understand him (Mouser). I never said a word to him. He’s just picking or something. This is getting ridiculous.”
Green said Mouser and the council members are adults and should be able to talk to one another. Mouser said that he has never had a group meeting with those individuals, but that he has spoken with them individually.
“I have had no meeting with Barbara Bryan, Larry Jett and Jeff Allen where the four of us were together at any time,” Mouser said. “There was nothing in there (a local newspaper) about any meeting.”
Jett also said he did not participate in an organized meeting with Mouser, Bryan and Allen, although he has talked to each of them separately on different occasions.
“I’ve never had a meeting with any of them,” Jett said.
Allen and Bryan did not immediately return phone messages left Wednesday.
Council members also responded to statements made by residents who threatened that if council members did not vote the way the citizens were asking them to, they would consider a recall of their office or reconsider their votes at the next election.
Boyd said he believed he made an informed vote after studying the information carefully.
“If folks want to do that, I will continue to take the high road,” Boyd said. “If folks want to make accusations, be it true or untrue, that’s fine. I’ll continue to take the high road.
“When I went to bed last night I slept like a baby, because – the decision – I knew it was the best decision I could make because it wasn’t swayed by any one person or any one group. As long as I am in office, I will continue to make the best decision that I can make.
Contact Melissa Toothman by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.