WHEELING, W.Va. — Wheeling Mayor Glenn Elliott says the major projects in Wheeling are full-steam ahead despite being without a full-time city manager.
Robert Herron was suspended indefinitely as city manager following being arrested and charged with aggravated DUI March 9.
Since then, the city council named Fire Chief Larry Helms as the acting city manager and reached agreements with the West Virginia Municipal League and the Regional Economic Development Partnership (RED) to help with city manager related projects.
“We have a lot of different projects in the queue here locally right now,” Elliott said. “There is never a good time to have your city manager out but this time is particularly bad. We wanted to make sure we had all the tools at our disposal so that the projects we have been talking about can continue moving forward without really missing a beat.”
The two major projects are the redevelopment of the Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel building, including a new parking facility, and the potential construction of a public safety building.
Elliott said Helms has years of experience in the city building and is working on more of the day-to-day operations while the two consultants are working to make sure the projects continue on pace.
Craig O’Leary, program director at the Wheeling-based RED, and Travis Blosser, deputy executive director at the Municipal League will be the two lead consultants for Wheeling from those firms. The two firms are offering the city their services for free, but Wheeling has agreed to pay the Municipal League for traveling expenses coming from Charleston.
“Some officials in those organizations with a lot of experience can give us some consulting advice here while we navigate the next few weeks, months ahead without a full-time city manager,” Elliott said.
“We haven’t allowed any of these projects to get hiccups just because of our city manager being out for any duration of time. We wanted to make sure that they could keep moving forward and the good news is they are continuing to move forward.”
Elliott said no decision had been made yet by the city council on the future of Herron as city manager. He was suspended without pay on March 11.
“We didn’t want to make that decision early on,” Elliott said. “We wanted to give it time to play itself out. He still has the legal process to deal with, he has been charged with a crime. So we want to let that process play out.”
Wheeling is in talks with an outside employment law firm, Littler Mendelson, to discuss what to do at the position. The firm is international with an office in Charleston and specializes in representing management in employment, employee benefit, executive compensation, and labor law matters.
Elliott said the city is scheduled to meet with attorney Rick Wallace in the next week to lay out the options. He added the city could not turn to its own legal department for advice because it is under the supervision of Herron.
“We will just kind of outline the pros and cons of different courses of action, the do’s, and don’ts of employment law,” Elliott said. “These are things that we wouldn’t normally be involved with on a day-to-day because we on the city council don’t directly hire and fire city employees directly.
“There are only a few in the city charter that are under our direct purview, the city manager being one of them.”
As more busy days and potentially weeks go by without Herron as city manager, Elliott knows many officials in the city will get things done because it has already happened.
“For the last couple of weeks, everybody in the city building, members of city council, everyone has stepped up and filled in the gap,” he said. “We know that with our city manager out, he’s been the point person on a lot of projects.
“Everyone is going to have to carry a little more weight than they are used to. The good news is people have responded very positively to that. Things have been going forward.”