Cumberland Times-News


December 23, 2013

Unelected board should be held accountable

 I find I must respond to the misinformation presented by Paul Dornsife of Carpendale, W.Va., in his Dec. 23 letter to the editor (“Mineral County officials overstep their legal bounds”).    

In his letter Mr. Dornsife correctly describes how a bill becomes a law, but Mineral County’s smoking ban is not a law.

It is a county ordinance, which is enacted locally without review by the legislature and was done legally under state code section §16-2-11(b)(3).

Both Sen. (Craig) Blair and I have been working with Commissioner (Jerry) Whisner to come up with a way under current code that actions by the unelected health department board must be approved by the county commission.

We could find none. It is unconscionable that an unelected board can write an ordinance without anyone being held accountable by the voters.

The current system is contrary to the very liberty our veterans have fought to preserve.

After talking to veterans, which I do frequently as a member of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, I started working on a bill.

This bill will require the county commission’s vote on any proposal by a county health department before it becomes an ordinance affecting the citizens, thus creating elected official accountability.

As a part time legislature we only have 60 days each year to introduce legislation. The next session starts on Jan. 8. It is at that time that my bill requiring a county commission to approve any ordinances that a health department suggests before they become effective will be introduced.

Jan. 8 is the first opportunity to introduce corrective legislation since the actions of the Mineral County Health Board.

I hope that Mr. Dornsife will support my legislation to protect the rights of the people and create accountability.

To answer his question on who will enforce the ordinance. It is my understanding that the Mineral County Health Department would do that, the state cannot enforce county ordinances.

Also, Mr. Dornsife incorrectly states there is a meeting to discuss the smoking ban on Jan 2. This is not the case.

The Legislative Townhall meeting I am hosting on Jan. 2 in Wiley Ford with Senators Blair and (David) Sypolt is not about Mineral County’s smoking ban.

It is to give a preview of the upcoming legislative session and hear citizen concerns about issues facing the state.

Delegate Gary Howell

56th District

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