Philippi’s mayor responds to article

This letter is in response to your article in the Dec. 23 edition of The Inter-Mountain.

First, let me advise you that my letter to the Ethics Commission and the State Auditor was the result of two past and one present members of the Philippi Building Commission who advised me that they could not get answers to their questions about their finances from their secretary or president. The current member stated in one conversation to me, “I don’t know if we have $10 or $10,000,000.” The question as to the city manager serving as secretary/treasurer also was posed to me.

On Oct. 8, 2013, I wrote to Mr. Howard Swick, the president of the Philippi Building Commission, urging the Building Commission to act expediently to address the financial issues. I further advised him that under West Virginia Code 8-33-8, the Commission was required to file quarterly and annual reports.

Having no response from Mr. Swick or the Secretary of the Commission, on Nov. 13 2013, I wrote to the West Virginia State Auditor requesting his office inquire into the financial affairs of the Commission. I further wrote to the West Virginia Ethics Commission posing the question of any conflict of interest in our city manager serving as the Commission’s secretary.

In your article, you quote Mr. Howard Swick as stating that the city manager is only serving as secretary and not the treasurer of the Building Commission, and the finance officer of the city is always the treasurer. He is also alleged to have stated that Weaver was selected four or five years ago as their secretary by a unanimous vote.

It has been reported to me that the minutes books of the City Council indicated that the Council advised that the Building Commission could select whomever they may as their secretary. There is no indication that a proper action was taken to amend city ordinance 160.02 that states the city clerk shall serve as secretary-treasurer for the Building Commission. To amend an ordinance requires certain procedures to be followed and those procedures may not have been followed, but that poses a legal question to be addressed beyond me.

There is no statement or authority in the city ordinance or the council meeting declaring that the city finance officer will always serve as the treasurer of the Building Commission. Further there is nothing in West Virginia State Code, article 33, 8-33-1 through 8-33-12, that addresses who shall be secretary-treasurer of the Building Commission.

Following the joint meeting between Council and the Building Commission on Dec. 17, I inquired of one past member and one present member of the Commission as to who is the treasurer. Both parties advised they did not know; they thought it was the city manager.

Regardless of who holds that position, the following facts remain: the Philippi Building Commission has not had an audit since 2009. There is no evidence that they have filed any financial reports as described in West Virginia State Code 8-33-8 in the recent past. Past and present members have expressed a concern to me as mayor that they cannot get answers to their questions as to the finances of the Commission. The money and the assets of the Building Commission belong to and are the property of the citizens of Philippi. The Building Commission is a component of the city of Philippi. A financial report is designed to provide the citizens with an overview of the Commission’s finances and to show accountability for money it receives and spends.

Code 131.01 of the city ordinance states as mayor, I shall have general supervision of all affairs of the municipality and may require such reports as I may deem necessary to carry out my executive responsibilities.

Had the Building Commission, under its president and secretary, been transparent in reporting its finances, both to the membership and to the citizens of Philippi, it would not have been necessary that I write to anyone in an attempt to have an outside independent audit and to make public its finances. Further, it needs to exercise control over its activities and operation.

As I have now found it necessary to contact my personal attorney regarding this issue, I will not comment further in the public forum until such time that he so advises.

C. Jerry Mouser

Mayor of Philipp