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Charles Town's war of words

City Council trying to determine whether member's comments are violation of rules

City Council trying to determine whether member's comments are violation of rules

November 07, 2006|by DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.VA. - The attempt to control the words of Charles Town City Council member Matt Ward continues.

Instead of trying to censure Ward over comments he has made about fellow city council members having their campaigns financed by developers, city council members are trying to determine if Ward's comments are in violation of Roberts Rules of Order.

Roberts Rules of Order is the standard that governments use to run their meetings and explain how elected officials can make motions to take action, among other issues.

City Council member Geraldine Willingham, who has taken offense to the comments made by Ward, said during Monday night's regular council meeting that Roberts Rules of Order dictates that elected officials shall debate issues and not get involved in personality conflicts.

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Ward disagreed that Roberts Rules of Order has any control over what he says in the community and he remained steadfast about his feelings.

"I said what I said and I will stand behind it," Ward told council members.

Council member Donald Clendening made a motion that a resolution be drawn up saying that Ward was not complying with Roberts Rules of Order, but the motion failed.

Council member Timothy Robinson then made a motion that the matter be turned over to the state Attorney General's office to determine if the council could rely on Roberts Rules of Order to control Ward. Council members passed it.

The controversy started at the Oct. 16 council meeting when council members lashed out at Ward over comments he made during a segment on WRNR radio station in Martinsburg, W.Va., on Oct. 4.

Ward said he stated on the radio station that a majority of the city council members had their expensive election campaigns financed by development interests and now the same developers are petitioning the city to give the builders development approvals.

Council members and Ward argued Monday night over Ward's comments and Willingham said Ward is insinuating that council members are crooked.

Ward denied making any sort of comment.

Willingham said Ward has also stated that council members have been "greasing the skids."

"Why would you say that about us?" Willingham said.

Council members discussed whether Ward was not in compliance with Roberts Rules of Order after the council's attorney, Jim Crawford, told council members that he did not think a censure of Ward was appropriate.

Several residents expressed concern about the council's attempt to control Ward's comments.

Ward said the council has approved annexations that will allow thousands of new homes in Charles Town without any good plans to control them. Local resident Rich Bringewatt said one of the issues facing the town is how such development will impact taxes.

Regarding Ward's comments, Bringewatt said there are much more inflammatory exchanges between elected officials across the country compared to the disagreements between Ward and council members.

"This kind of behavior, I think, gets in our way," Bringewatt said of the council's censure attempt.

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