WHEELING - A week after losing his bid for a seat on Wheeling City Council, Tony Domenick asked city officials to clarify for future municipal elections where candidates for office can and cannot campaign, as well as post signs.
Domenick, who finished tied for last among six candidates in the Ward 2 race where Ken Imer edged out Charles Ballouz by just two votes, spoke before City Council requesting that in the future, a passage related to West Virginia's version of a federal law dating back to 1939 be included in the informational packets given to candidates when they file for municipal office.
Citing information he received from the state Attorney General's office as his source, Domenick said West Virginia's version of the Hatch Act - which restricts the political activity of federal employees while performing their official duties - prohibits campaign signs at any location which receives federal or state funding to prevent undue influence upon government employees. He said it also prohibits candidates from campaigning at federally funded housing complexes without an express invitation to do so.
Photo by Ian Hicks
Wheeling Mayor Andy McKenzie delivers a report during Tuesday’s City Council meeting.
Although he didn't identify his sources, Domenick said he heard at some point during the campaign, political signs were posted inside the City-County Building that later were removed.
Mayor Andy McKenzie thanked Domenick for his comments but did not respond further.
After the meeting, Domenick said he planned to bring the issue to council regardless of the election's outcome.
"It keeps political signs off our Heritage Port. It keeps political signs from being taped to the city building," Domenick said of the Hatch Act and its various state-level versions.
In other business, McKenzie asked council to support the Ohio County Board of Education, which voted earlier this month to protest a proposed Chesapeake Energy gas well that would be situated about 1,300 feet away from Wheeling Park High School. McKenzie noted the school board and city are not opposed to drilling but would prefer a site that would not impact the safety of more than 2,000 people in case of an accident. Council voted unanimously to draft a letter in support of the board's position.
Council also heard first reading of an ordinance to rename Stone Boulevard as Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, and will vote on the change at its next meeting May 29. The legislation resulted from a February request from the Upper Ohio Valley Ministerial Association.
City Manager Robert Herron said the current name dates back to 1956 and was named for William Stone, who played a significant role in the beautification of National Road. Councilman Robert "Herk" Henry said he supported the idea of naming a street for King, but he would rather see it done on a street not already named for a local figure.
McKenzie said the location fit both the association's request to choose a street of historical significance to the local African-American community, as well as the city's desire to make the change with minimal impact to residents and businesses. Many African-Americans lived and operated businesses in the neighborhood, he noted, and attended the nearby former Lincoln School, one of the area's last segregated schools.
"This impacted, I believe, three structures on the street," said McKenzie.