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Authority Votes To Quit Paying Invoices

By Staff | Jul 13, 2016

Photo by Lauren Matthews Pictured, from left, are Wetzel County Solid Waste Authority Members Kelly Nelsen and Daniel Witschey, Authority Chairman Mark Cochran, Authority Member Larry Edgell, and Executive Director Terri Tyler. Authority Member Mike Durig was not present at the July 7 meeting.

The Wetzel County Solid Waste Authority has voted to quit paying invoices from Attorney Silas Taylor, pending further review by the authority.

The authority held a regular meeting Thursday, July 7. The meeting featured two new members – Daniel Witschey, appointed by The Upper Ohio Valley Conservation District; and Kelly Nelsen, appointed by the Wetzel County Commission. Former authority members Steve Conlon and Bill Hughes were not reappointed by the above-mentioned agencies.

Mark Cochran, who was voted to chairman to the authority, mentioned several outstanding invoices from Taylor. Cochran argued that the board never authorized any of the actions for which Taylor had invoiced. Cochran had noted that one invoice charged 42.7 hours for researching “the legal definition of solid waste.”

Another invoice allegedly charged for 26 hours to research North Dakota’s landfill laws.

Cochran said he had referenced Taylor’s invoices, alongside the authority’s minutes of its meetings. Cochran said he did not find where the authority had authorized any of Taylor’s actions the attorney had mentioned in his invoices. Cochran encouraged fellow authority members to review the invoices and minutes.

Cochran proposed that the authority discuss payments to Taylor. “There was a motion made in the May meeting that we pay him $2,000 a month until the balance is due. This is not Monopoly money. These are public funds for which we are responsible for. I’d like to have a discussion as to what this board thinks we should do.”

Cochran said he had a draft of a proposed letter to send to Taylor, which stated the authority would investigate the invoices a bit more.

Nelsen inquired as to what the authority’s counsel, Ben Freeman, had previously proposed the authority do regarding the invoices.

Cochran noted that Freeman had advised the authority to continue paying the invoices.

“As I said, this isn’t Monopoly money,” Cochran said. “These are the peoples’ dollars. I think for us to pay money for work that we are pretty sure was never authorized is bordering on irresponsibility on our part. I think we should ask Mr. Taylor who authorized the work, what was the mechanism that authorized him to engage in research on North Dakota landfill laws and 46 hours to research the legal definition of solid waste.”

It was noted that the authority had already paid approximately $51,000 to Taylor.

Authority member Edgell noted that he wanted to delay payments to give the authority more time to research the matter. “I know our money is running a bit short, so at this point I’d like to offer the motion that the authority conduct a review of Mr. Taylor’s invoices.”

Edgell said $2,000 a month hindered on the budget, money the authority does have.

Executive director of the authority, Terri Tyler, said she had not sent Taylor a $2,000 payment in June, as the authority’s account would have been severely low. “We would have been below $5,000, and I cannot move money from our savings account without authority approval.”

Nelsen expressed concern as to whether or not Taylor could “put this board in collection for his bill.”

Tyler said there was no signed agreement with Taylor; Cochran added there was no contract.

Nelsen responded that the authority’s public minutes mentioned that the authority had agreed to pay Taylor.

“I wouldn’t want us to incur additional legal fees to have to defend our position over this.”

Nelsen suggested that if it was later found that the authority didn’t owe the money, they might be able to “recoup those monies.”

He said the authority was fortunate to have a payment arrangement and suggested the authority not “antagonize” the situation.

“The motion isn’t to not pay,” Edgell clarified. “The motion is being made to lower the $2,000, because that was just a number that came up?We plan on coming up with some sort of money to pay. It’s not that we aren’t going to pay. We are going to look at it, and make sure the money we have. Right now we can’t afford $2,000.”

Nelsen said he would like to see the authority make some sort of effort.

Nelsen suggested the authority amend the standing motion to include that the authority would continue payment once Taylor replies to an inquiry for more detail to the invoices. Otherwise, “we could sit here for months at a time, for months and months and look this over.”

Witschey noted that “what jumps out to me is that we have no formal agreement, no engagement letter to Mr. Taylor.”

The authority decided that would continue payments to Taylor as soon as possible, upon successful review of the invoices.

In another matter, the authority agreed to pay $500 a month to the West Virginia Attorney General’s office. Cochran noted that the attorney general’s office “has been helpful to us and courteous to us.”

As to other financial matters, the authority agreed to invite Mark Glass to the authority’s next meeting to give a presentation regarding a report he wrote on Lackawanna Transport Company’s National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit.

Glass is from Downstream Strategies, an environmental consulting firm.

It was noted that the rationale for the Downstream Strategies report was to educate the authority and public “about Lackawanna’s permit for the landfill.” The cost of the report was $7,850.

Lackawanna Transport Company owns and operates Wetzel County’s landfill.

It was noted that Lackawanna’s permit was already approved for another five years at the time the report was authorized.

Witschey questioned as to why the authority would approve a study into something that they could not change for five years.

“The only thing moving downstream was the money,” Edgell remarked of the purchase of the report.

Cochran suggested that Mark Glass come and give a presentation to the authority regarding his report; he further suggested that the presentation be videoed.

“I think that would be money well spent to be able to refer to it,” he said.

In another matter, the authority agreed to renew radio advertising. Tyler said the cost of the specific advertising package the authority uses is $250.

“It’s the Mountaineer program. Anytime they are playing football or basketball, our name is mentioned. It is a very well received package, and people tell me all the time they hear it,” she said.