Wheeling City Council Puts City Manager Robert Herron on Indefinite Unpaid Leave Following DUI Arrest; Appoints Fire Chief Larry Helms Acting City Manager
WHEELING — City council on Monday suspended City Manager Robert Herron indefinitely without pay following his Saturday arrest on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol.
Council also appointed Fire Chief Larry Helms as acting city manager.
Council met behind closed doors for more than three hours to discuss how to handle Herron and his arrest, which took place late Saturday when he was involved in a traffic accident at 16th and Market streets while driving his city vehicle. According to the Ohio County Sheriff’s Department, which handled the accident after Wheeling city officers determined Herron to be the driver, Herron’s blood alcohol content was .305 percent, nearly four times the legal limit.
After announcing Herron would be suspended indefinitely without pay, council appointed Helms to lead the city in the short term.
Helms has been chief of the fire department since 2007, but Mayor Glenn Elliott confirmed Helms does not have any public administration experience.
Elliott declined additional comment following the meeting, as did all other members of council.
Council did release a written statement on the matter:
“To a person, we on city council are deeply troubled by the alleged conduct involving City Manager Robert Herron,” the statement reads. “As this matter moves forward, it is imperative that the business of the city go on. We have full faith in the abilities of Fire Chief Larry Helms to serve as acting city manager. … We thank Chief Helms for his willingness to take on this expanded role and pledge to him our full support and cooperation.”
Council unanimously voted to accept Helms as acting manager.
Helms left the city building before the conclusion of the closed-door session, but in the same statement, said he was ready to take on the role.
“I am humbled that city council trusts me to maintain the day-to-day functionality of the city of Wheeling. I look forward to the challenge of my (new) role,” Helms said.
According to police records, Herron was involved in a two-vehicle accident just before 11 p.m. Saturday in a city vehicle. The Ohio County Sheriff’s deputy who responded after Wheeling officers noticed the driver made contact with Herron, who the deputy said smelled strongly of alcohol. Herron allegedly told the officer that he had consumed two beers, and was administered a field sobriety test, which he allegedly failed. When given a breath test later at sheriff department headquarters, police say Herron’s blood alcohol content registered at .305, nearly four times the state limit of .08.
Herron was subsequently taken to the Northern Regional Jail and arraigned the following day, where he posted $1,000 bond. He has been charged with aggravated DUI, a misdemeanor.
As part of Herron’s suspension, he is to surrender all city equipment in his possession.