Morgantown City Council readies to discuss police review board, firefighters

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Morgantown City Council may be officially moving forward with a Civilian Police Review Board.

That topic will be the main item for discussion ahead of it’s second regular meeting in May, which will also includes updates to the 2020-21 annual budget as well as announcement to grant applications and legal settlements. While a lot is expected to be put on the table during the meeting, the majority of Morgantown Area eyes will be on the proposed Civilian Police Review Board, which has gotten just about unanimous support by members of council.

“Again I want to express my support,” said Morgantown Mayor Ron Dulaney, during the previous meeting’s vote on the ordinance. “I think that where this has landed, I believe does show a good faith effort in participation, by everyone who participated in this process,” he said.

The Civilian Police Review Board has been a hot button discussion since it’s initial proposal close to a year ago. Originally proposed in response to the protests of the death of George Floyd, the ordinance has gone through several changes while being discussed in Morgantown’s Special Committee on Community Policing and Citizens Review Board. This has included changes in it’s investigative powers and ability to discipline police officers, which are essentially non-existent in the proposed ordinance currently in second reading. Despite that, members of the committee felt the ordinance has enough substance to create substantial change.

“The Special Committee has been working very very hard to come up with a process that would be specifically tailored to our town, and to what our city needs,” said Morgantown Deputy Mayor Rachel Fetty, who was the chair of the committee.

Morgantown City Council, is also expected to announce details on an approved settlement between the Morgantown Fire Department and the City. The dispute began when changes were made to differential pay policy that resulted in a $2,000 pay reduction for 47 firefighters after more than 30 years of following the same procedure. Morgantown City Manager Kim Haws made the changes on the recommendation of a consultant conducting a salary study.

Under the settlement, firefighters will not be entitled to differential pay, but salaries will increased to offset any loss caused by the change in policy. In the future, firefighters will only qualify for differential pay if they are called out for any unscheduled duty starting during the afternoon or evening shift as provided by the shift differential rules in place and applicable to all city employees under the city’s then-existing Personnel Rules.

“You can’t cut forty-seven by two thousand dollars a year, you can’t do this in private industry and expect morale not to be in the tank, for recruitment to become a problem,” said Attorney Teresa Toriseva, who represents the International Association of Firefighters Local 313, who originally filed the lawsuit

Council is also expected to vote on grant applications for the Dorsey Avenue Sidewalk project, the Pleasant Street Streetscape project as well as the Morgantown Airport Streetscape project. Those items are on first reading and will have to go through a second vote before they are official city ordinances. Morgantown City Council will hold their meeting virtually and will take place at 7 p.m.