Mineral County (W.Va.) Commissioner Richard Lechliter has filed to run for one of the five Ridgeley Town Council seats that will be decided in June.
He has said that if he is elected, he intends to serve in both positions.
This seems to us like a bad idea.
Lechliter left his post as mayor of Ridgeley in 2011 when he was elected commissioner, apparently on advice from the West Virginia Secretary of State’s office that it was incompatible to serve as both mayor and commissioner.
However, he could serve on both the commission and Ridgeley council because they are part-time jobs. West Virginia’s Ethics Act places different limits on full-time public officials.
Lechliter said that as commissioner, he has no say on what happens in Ridgeley, but as a council member he would have a voice in how the town operates and spends its money. The town has had issues in recent years, one currently involving allegations that its present mayor misused a purchasing card — something he denies.
If Lechliter does serve on both the county commission and the Ridgeley council, the possibility of a conflict-of-interest situation will inevitably arise.
Mineral County has three commissioners, one of which is elected every two years to a six-year term, and their responsibility is to represent the county’s citizens as a whole.
When the board must decide an issue that involves Ridgeley, people will ask if Lechliter is casting his vote as a representative of the county or as a town council member of Ridgeley.
And if he chooses to recuse himself in such instances, that presents the possibility of a tie vote — one pro, one con — that resolves nothing.
Some of our old sayings are based on wisdom that comes from experience. One we would cite here is that “No one can serve two masters.”