Wheeling City Council Mulls Options After Suspending City Manager Robert Herron

Consultants, assistant city manager among ideas

WHEELING — Mayor Glenn Elliott outlined the city’s options Thursday after City Manager Robert Herron was suspended without pay and Fire Chief Larry Helms was named acting city manager earlier in the week.

Such options include bringing in people to advise and consult with city officials on Wheeling’s larger projects and possibly hiring an assistant city manager, Elliott said.

“At this point we are still just a few days away from the events of last weekend and are considering a range of both short-term and long-term options,” he said.

On Saturday evening, Herron was arrested on suspicious of driving under the influence and later charged with aggravated DUI, a misdemeanor. City Council met for over three hours behind closed doors Monday, announced Herron’s suspension and unanimously voted to accept Helms’ additional role.

Elliott said council chose Helms for the role because of his knowledge of city functions, adding that Herron previously gave Helms acting city manager authority during vacations.

“Chief Helms is widely respected among city department heads and has a high level of familiarity with city operations, infrastructure, personnel and, of course, first responder services,” Elliott said. “We have complete confidence in his abilities to keep city functions running smoothly.”

In the acting role, Helms will be the chief executive officer of Wheeling and have all the powers given to the city manager assigned in the city’s charter, Elliott said.

In the short term, city officials are working to provide Helms with resources he may need to manage Wheeling’s larger projects, Elliott said, such as planning a proposed parking structure to accompany the redevelopment of the Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel Building and looking for more space for the city’s police and fire departments.

Earlier in March, the developer of the Wheeling-Pitt building informed council that his company would be ready to start construction in spring, or in about six weeks, if the city can commit to building a parking garage to support the apartments planned for the building.

In addition, Wheeling plans to bring in people to advise and consult with city officials on a temporary basis for the city’s larger projects.

“We have spoken to several individuals throughout the state with considerable experience in public administration and project finance to ascertain their availability,” Elliott said. “Our goal is to have an arrangement in place next week with one or more of these individuals so that they are available to help our city staff navigate the complexities associated with projects of this nature.”

Another option on the table for Wheeling is hiring an assistant city manager. In late December, Herron announced that the city would begin recruiting for the assistant position to help plan city projects.

The city may interview and hire an assistant city manager from a pool of candidates who have already applied for the position, Elliott said. Helms would be responsible for overseeing the process and hiring the person, he said.

Elliott said he’s informed city officials that Wheeling is in a situation where people may need to “step up” and take on additional responsibilities to keep the city running.

“Thus far, I could not be more pleased with the increased effort level that I have seen so far from so many city officials and members of council,” he said.

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