City Wheeling Seeking Help From Consultants in Absence of Suspended City Manager Robert Herron

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WHEELING — The city is taking steps to fill the gap left by City Manager Robert Herron’s suspension by bringing in outside consultants to help with Wheeling’s larger projects.

City Council unanimously voted to approve a resolution allowing Mayor Glenn Elliott to enter into agreements with the West Virginia Municipal League and the Regional Economic Development Partnership at a special meeting Thursday.

The consultants will provide temporary services to help Acting City Manager Larry Helms and council with capital improvement and development projects, according to the resolution.

“During this process where we have an acting city manager, we feel it’s important to provide that city manager with some expert consulting advice,” Elliott said.

Helms, also chief of Wheeling’s fire department, was named to the city manager role March 11 after Herron was indefinitely suspended without pay. Herron was arrested and charged with aggravated DUI March 9.

Specifically, two consultants will help Wheeling with projects in the coming months: Craig O’Leary, program director at the Wheeling-based RED, and Travis Blosser, deputy executive director at the Municipal League.

“The idea is to have these two individuals who have a lot of experience with project finance and public administration kind of at the disposal of the chief moving forward as he’s acting city manager,” Elliott said.

The two organizations will provide consulting services at no cost to the city, other than paying for Blosser to occasionally commute from Charleston, Elliott said.

Elliott noted that both O’Leary and Blosser have applicable experience. O’Leary has worked with Wheeling in past years on capital projects, and Blosser previously served as city manager in Weirton.

“They can … give the acting city manager all the tools he that he needs going forward so we can work on some of the capital projects we have in the queue,” Elliott said.

Two of those projects including planning for a parking garage to accompany the rehabilitation of the Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel building downtown, as well as searching for new facilities for Wheeling’s police and fire departments, he said.

Council also unanimously voted to approve another resolution at the meeting, one authorizing the mayor to hire an outside legal firm to help with “personal matters concerning the city manager.”

“It’s something that was recommended,” Elliott said. “Because our existing city solicitor is a city employee, we should have someone look at the situation objectively.”

Council approved both resolutions after meeting in executive session to discuss personnel matters for about 15 minutes at the beginning of the meeting.

The duration of the agreements with the consultants still needs to be finalized, Elliott said, adding that once the city enters into the agreements, they will be made publicly available. In addition, Elliott said the future of the city manager position will be “on hold” for the time being as the city works out how to move forward.

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