MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — City council has signed off on an agreement that would limit the power of the Morgantown Civilian Police and Advisory Board.
The board was created by city council last year to accept complaints, audit policies and procedures and review findings of internal investigations and make recommendations to the chief of police. The ordinance also gave the board authority to review evidence and interview witnesses or the complainant.
Monongalia County Circuit Court Judge Susan Tucker ruled against the board last December in a case filed by the local Fraternal Order of Police saying the duties would interfere with the established Police Review Commission and civil service law that dictates personnel law for police and firefighters.
Morgantown City Manager Kim Haws said the new agreement, that received council approval Tuesday night, would remove the complaint and investigation process that is given to the board in the ordinance.
“This would include such activities by the review board of investigations and interviewing witnesses prior to the Morgantown police chief making a decision,” Haws said.
Morgantown-Kingwood NAACP President Anitra Hamilton thought the city would prevail if the case appealed to the state Supreme Court but she said working toward a better relationship with police is her goal.
“Albeit, it will be reduced powers that will limit the capacity of the ordinance to produce the desired effect of a stronger, and a more trusting relationship with the police within this city,” Hamilton said.
State Senate Republican nominee Mike Oliverio said public safety and police affairs should be their top priority. He urged those involved to take an active role in getting the outcome residents are asking for.
“I understand you may want to establish committees for bikes and trees and other issues,” Oliverio said. “But, I think when it comes to public safety you and the council should make that your priority.”
By accepting the agreement neither the city nor FOP Lodge 87 can appeal Tucker’s ruling.
Morgantown financial adjustments
Revenue adjustments of about $3.2 million were made to B&O construction, B&O non-construction and coal severance to match actual receipts for the year. City Finance Director Kevin Tennant said $750,000 from the B&O tax revenue and $43,000 from additional coal severance revenue will augment the BOPARC budget.
“There’s $1.5 million of that is from the construction and all of that will go to will go to the Capitol Escrow Fund and help fund some of next year’s projects and also some of the BOPARC requests,” Tennant said.
Morgantown launched a Small Business Assistance Grant program in partnership with the Small Business Administration last year as part of the American Rescue Action Plan. The program was funded with $500,000 and offered grants of up to $20,000 for businesses to remain in operation or operate successfully in the COVID-era. The program does give preference to businesses in downtown or the Wharf District.
Morgantown small business owner and former municipal employee, Patricia McDade told council members she and others small businesses had applied for grants and have heard from the city administration. McDade submitted her application on February 28 and attempts since then to determine the application status were unsuccessful.
From there, McDade said the reasons and information from the city continued to change.
“I didn’t get a reason, then it was denied in March, but I wasn’t notified in March, no it was April, then it was I didn’t meet the goals of the community,” McDade said.
McDade is a former grant writer and employee of the county commission who now offers a variety of business management and security course.