Robert Herron Reinstated As Wheeling City Manager
City Council votes 5-2 to reinstate following suspension from DUI
WHEELING — Robert Herron will soon return to his job as Wheeling’s City Manager after City Council voted 5-2 to reinstate him on Monday evening.
The decision, which will end Herron’s suspension that began on March 11, came one day after he pleaded guilty to DUI in Ohio County Magistrate Court. Herron said he will resume his duties “soon,” though no date is set yet.
Per the motion approved by council, Herron must sign an agreement with several provisions. He must consent to random alcohol testing by a third party, is no longer permitted access to a city vehicle, must pay for damages to the vehicle he hit and must hire an assistant City Manager within 45 days.
“I appreciate City Council voting to reinstate me as the City Manager,” Herron said after Tuesday’s council meeting. “I do appreciate their confidence and I’ll do everything I can to not let them down.”
Herron was arrested for DUI on the evening of March 9 after he was involved in a vehicle accident downtown. Officers determined his blood alcohol content to be 0.305 percent, nearly four times the legal limit in West Virginia.
During the meeting, Herron addressed council, expressing remorse and asking for the chance to make amends. Council also heard from nine individuals on the matter, eight of whom — including former Mayor Andy McKenzie — recommended reinstating Herron and one who opposed doing so.
“I sincerely apologize to City Council, Wheeling city employees, my wife and family and most of all the citizens of the great city of Wheeling for my unacceptable actions on March 9,” Herron said during the meeting. “I cannot express enough the deep remorse for my behavior that evening. I made a serious error in judgement and needlessly put the public and myself at risk. I ask for the forgiveness of the mayor, City Council, city employees and the community as a whole, please.”
Councilwomen Wendy Scatterday and Melinda Koslik voted against the motion and expressed reservations with allowing Herron to return as City Manager. Mayor Glenn Elliott, Vice Mayor and Councilman Chad Thalman, as well as councilmen Ken Imer, Dave Palmer and Ty Thorngate voted in favor of the motion.
Scatterday addressed Herron, saying that she forgives him and wants him to prosper, but said she didn’t feel comfortable with reinstating him after the two spoke last week. Division exists among residents, city staff and council because of Herron’s actions, she said.
“I asked you some specific questions about your plans if you were to be reinstated, about how you would help heal the division,” Scatterday said. “It was not clear to me that there was a real solid plan that you had in place to rectify and to heal and to move forward in a realistic way. … I wish I could support it, but I didn’t hear enough from you that lets me do that, regrettably. “
Koslik said residents she previously spoke with said Wheeling’s City Manager should be held to the highest standards.
“I don’t personally believe we are serving the city of Wheeling with excellence by bringing (Herron) back,” Koslik said. “I’m frankly afraid of the long-term repercussions on the city and staff that work under him.”
Elliott said the matter has been the most vexing issue that the current City Council has faced.
“I’ve thought about this and what’s best for the city moving forward and what’s best for city council to get the things done it wants to get done,” Elliott said. “I’ve on council probably worked with Mr. Herron as closely as anybody these past three years. I have a tremendous amount of respect for him and have seen his value first-hand.
“I am hoping by the actions we take tonight that we can put him on a path and position him for success,” he continued. “This city council is going to be as committed now as it ever has been to making things better.”
Several people vouched for Herron’s character at the meeting and urged council to reinstate him, including McKenzie; Wheeling attorneys Robert Fitzsimmons and Greg McDermott; Rich Lucas with Main Street Bank and John Culler, Tim Roberts, George Frazier and Mike Carl.
“When you look at the type and the integrity of the people who are here today I think it says a lot about Bob Herron.” McKenzie said. “He is a husband, he is a father and he is an amazing grandfather. … He is a great human being, he is a great man and I can tell you, he’s not the best City Manager in West Virginia, he’s one of the best in the country.”
Cullen said Wheeling’s business community has always trusted Herron. Fitzsimmons said that the good Herron has done for the city vastly outweighs the bad incident.
“When a man of this caliber feels as badly as Bob does about what he did and has the desire and the initiative to make amends … our city would be best served, I would respectfully submit, by giving him the opportunity,” McDermott said.
Conversely, Wheeling resident Ben Seidler recommended council not reinstate Herron, suggesting the body forgive him and possibly offer an early retirement.
“My concern is that the City Manager is the leader of the city on the administration side,” Seidler said. “I’m really struggling with the idea that we set a precedent that driving under the influence is acceptable.”
Also at the meeting, council voted unanimously to approve a ordinance to pay the firm GAI Consultants $35,000 for further design work on the planned Wheeling Island Gateway Park. Work will include map preparation, design development, construction drawings, cost options and permitting.
The cost of that design work will covered by the $150,000 donation the Fitzsimmons Family Foundation made to the city in February, Parks and Recreation Director Jesse Mestrovic said. The bridge is set to be built adjacent to the Wheeling Suspension Bridge along North Front Street.
Council also heard the first reading of an ordinance to spend $70,000 on new equipment to replace the Pleasanton and North 24th Street playgrounds.
Mestrovic said the company hired to provide the new playground equipment, Service Supply Ltd., did an “excellent job” in optimizing space and providing the most amenities given the city’s budget.