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Employee Relations Dominate Meeting

By Staff | Jan 9, 2013

Discussion about contentious relations between city personnel filled the New Martinsville City Council meeting Monday night.

The matter was first raised by Water and Sewer Superintendent Pat Durant who took the podium during the time for guest comments and presentations. Saying he wanted to clear up a matter, he said a couple months ago the water and sewer board asked for some information so they could see where they stand, financially.

Consequently, Secretary Paula Gump made a written request for such information. Gump gave the letter to members of the board and council in an attempt to get a resolution between the two bodies. However, it reportedly circulated through the city building.

Durant said now there is a letter circulating through the city building that says Gump is trying to cause problems. “Paula’s not stirring any trouble at all,” said Durant. “The water board asked for the information.” Durant said is tired of Gump being harassed, saying she is only doing her job.

Councilwoman Doris Fannin said this kind of contentious atmosphere, trouble between the two departments, has been going on since “the beginning of time”.

At one point a heated exchange between Maintenance Foreman Donzel Hornbeck and Shannon ensued. Pointing toward her to resolve the problem, Recorder Bonnie Shannon said that Brenda Hardman is the billing office administrator and Shannon doesn’t fully know the system or have complete access to its information. Despite that, Durant said Shannon is her supervisor and needs to talk with Hardman and ask her to change her methods.

“You don’t have to like the person, but you have to respect them and get along with them,” said Durant.

“I’m not the only one she harasses, I’m not.” said Paula, continuing toward Shannon. “You’re her boss, stop this harassment.”

Electric Department General Manager David White said his department has experienced similar problems with obtaining financial information. “There is information we need about revenue that comes in,” he said. “There have been instances where we were blocked from information that we felt that we needed.”

White said that block always comes from the billing manager-even before Hardman was in that position.

“In my opinion there is absolutely nothing that could possibly be in that billing system. . . that should be blocked from us at any time,” said White. “We are the managers and superintendents of our departments that can’t get information that we request. That’s ridiculous.” said White. “Something needs to be done.”

He asked how can they be responsible for numbers in their budgets, when they can’t get the figures. “Bottom line is, this is childish,” said White.

Shannon and Mayor Keith Nelsen said they planned to speak with Hardman about the incident on Tuesday.

Also, Nelsen wants the city to now make daily deposits and begin using online banking. That way the departments will be able to see their deposits.

Councilwoman Kay Goddard, a CPA who is also Moundsville’s finance director, said the city’s financial numbers should be worked up on a monthly basis. That could be outsourced, but “it comes at a price,” she said. She further indicated that the city’s financial system should be able to generate such a monthly report.

She has also been giving some financial pointers to the water and sewer department. Durant said he called the Public Service Commission and asked if they could visit the department and tell them what they need to do, so they can be sure they are keeping books correctly.

“We want to be on the right page to be sure that they are doing it right,” said Durant. “No one’s in trouble or anything like that. They’re going to get us set the right way.”

The PSC indicted a letter from the mayor could set that visit in motion. The water and sewer board agreed to such an action, as did council at Monday’s meeting. Nelsen will make the written request.

Also at Monday’s meeting, Councilwoman Iris “Deaner” Isaacs said some people have tried accusing her, and in turn the council and mayor, of unethical actions. This reportedly stems from her position as a part-time dispatcher for the New Martinsville Police Department.

Isaacs said she revealed that fact when running for the position to represent the Sixth Ward and said she would not vote on police matters. “Regretfully, not voting is not enough to satisfy some individuals,” said Isaacs as she read a prepared statement.

She and Shannon called the West Virginia Ethics Commission to obtain advice on the matter. “As of today, I will no longer attend any police committee meeting and will recuse myself from any discussions that deal with financial matters,” said Isaacs. “Personally, I’m pretty offended that I’ve been treated this shabby in six months.”

Councilwoman Holly Grandstaff, after noting that she is glad to be back on council, summed up her feelings on the contentious meeting in one sentence, “If you have this much time to cause this much trouble in your work, somebody isn’t working.”