Lay off Wayne Dunn

At the July 15 commission meeting presiding officer Wayne Dunn proposed a written ballot to elect Jamie Six’s replacement. After concerns were raised by Blair Couch about the legality of this methodology Dunn deferred, a voice vote was taken and Mark Rhodes was appointed.

On Wednesday you stated in an editorial that “Dunn announced the vote would be taken by a private ballot, and not a public vote” You characterized this action as “troubling,” “a blatant violation of the West Virginia Public Meetings Law” and stated it was “stunning” that “someone who has served as a commissioner for (nearly 5 years) still does not understand the legal basics of a public meeting.”

You concluded correctly from comments that “Dunn had discussed this with fellow Commissioner Steve Gainer prior to the meeting” This action was “blatantly illegal” and “shows (Gainer) doesn’t have a grasp of the law, either.”

On Sunday, your editorial titled “Public office isn’t a private club” covered identical ground. The “secret meeting to discuss having a secret, written ballot” consisted of a verbal exchange after the previous session. Was it a “blatant violation of the West Virginia Public Meetings Law?”

Chapter 6-9A-2: … (4) . The term meeting does not include: … (E) Discussions by members of a governing body on logistical and procedural methods to schedule and regulate a meeting.

So much for your illegal private club.

Regarding your primary charge: Chapter 6-9A-8(b) DOES explicitly prohibit a “secret or written” ballot. However, the preceding paragraph provides necessary context: (officials) may not, vote, (in a manner) which may render it difficult for persons attending a meeting of the public agency to understand what is being deliberated, voted or acted upon.

It is secrecy, a charge you hammered the two commissioners with eight times on Sunday, that the law is attempting to proscribe. On 17 July you wrote: “After calling for a vote, Dunn gave each commissioner a piece of paper and told them to write their choice of either Rhodes or Miller, then give their ballot to Wood County Administrator Marty Seufer.”

Pam Brust’s Tuesday coverage relates what Dunn actually proposed:

“Dunn distributed slips of paper to fellow commissioners, telling them to write down their choice of Rhodes or Miller, then sign the paper, give it to the county administrator and the decision would be publicly announced.”

Maybe it’s time you laid off Wayne Dunn.

Bill Ambrose