CHARLESTON, W.Va. — An advisory opinion requested by Morgantown City Attorney Ryan Simonton regarding Deputy Mayor Mark Brazaitis’ participation in votes to purchase the Haymaker Forest is on the agenda for Thursday’s meeting of the West Virginia Ethics Commission.

The meeting is at 10 a.m. in the third floor conference room at 210 Brooks St., in Charleston.

One of the points repeatedly raised during weeks of public debate over the city’s proposed purchase of the 40 wooded acres was the fact that Brazaitis’ property borders the forest off Courtney Avenue and so he potentially stands to benefit from the purchase, creating a conflict of interest.

Brazaitis cast two votes on the issue: The first, on June 5, in favor of buying the property, the second, on June 19, against postponing the issue.

He’s explained that the issue of preserving the forest and other city greenspace was central to his successful bid for the 6th Ward council seat and not motivated by personal gain.

The ethics commission agenda doesn’t name Brazaitis or Morgantown, but states “A City asks whether a Council Member may vote on the City’s proposed purchase of property that is adjacent to the Council Member’s residence.”

According to information on the ethics commission website, a person subject to the ethics act who acts in good faith reliance on an advisory opinion shall be immune from the sanctions of the ethics act and of the sanctions set forth in W.Va. Code § 61-10-15.

Such persons also shall have an absolute defense to any criminal prosecution for actions taken in good faith reliance upon any such opinion.

Also on the meeting’s agenda will be a vote to accept, reject or modify a proposed conciliation agreement regarding nepotism charges brought by the ethics commission against Michelle Malone, the manager of the River Road and Paw Paw-Route 10 public service districts.

Story by Ben Conley

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