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Wharton: Vote ‘shouldn’t have taken place’

WHEELING — Ohio County Commissioner Randy Wharton admits a vote on the contract to hire a manager for The Highlands property shouldn’t have taken place last month, as not all OCDA members knew of changes made to the contract prior to the meeting.

A special meeting of the OCDA set for 1:30 p.m. today to discuss the contract was postponed Monday.

A meeting of the Ohio County commissioners — all of whom are members of the OCDA board — still is set for 6 p.m. today. On the agenda for the meeting is an item pertaining to the removal and appointment of members to the OCDA board. The meeting will be the first for new Commissioner Zach Abraham.

Wharton — also president of the County Development Authority — said he and Commissioner Don Nickerson were among those unaware of amendments to a proposed contract with former county administrator Greg Stewart and his newly formed company, CMAD LLC. The amended agreement came before the OCDA board on Dec. 15.

Board members approved the contract following an executive session. Nickerson was the only member against the measure, while Wharton as president only votes when there is a tie vote among members.

Wharton said he permitted the vote to take place even though the contract differed from what members received in their packets prior to the meeting. Chief among the changes was the OCDA’s contracting with the company CMAD, rather than the employee Stewart.

“I had worked out a contract with Don Tennant, and it was distributed to all the members ahead of time,” Wharton said. “Prior to the meeting, something transpired — I don’t know what it was — but the contract provided in the meeting notice was rejected and moved off the agenda and another contract was placed on the agenda.”

Nickerson said neither he nor Wharton were included in any discussions about The Highlands manager’s contract prior to the Dec. 15 meeting, and that the draft they received during the meeting was “wrongfully rushed through” without being on the agenda.

“The public had no ability to ask about it or ask questions,” he said. “Other board members were notified and the matter appears to have been decided outside the meeting.”

Counsel has informed the board that switching an employee contract for a company contract when it wasn’t on the meeting notice makes the contract “voidable,” according to Wharton.

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