KEYSER - Rambling discussion and accusations of personal vendettas resulted in one member threatening to quit and another walking out of the meeting in disgust as the Mineral County Development Authority held a special meeting Thursday evening.

By Liz Beavers
Tribune Managing Editor
KEYSER - Rambling discussion and accusations of personal vendettas resulted in one member threatening to quit and another walking out of the meeting in disgust as the Mineral County Development Authority held a special meeting Thursday evening.
The advertised purpose of the meeting had been to review a draft of proposed changes to the authority's by-laws, a review of the current policies and procedures, and an executive session to "discuss the job description of the executive director."
When the members came to the proposed executive session, however, director Mona Ridder handed secretary David Webb a paper and after looking at it, Webb told the authority that he didn't feel the discussion was an acceptable reason for a closed meeting.
The West Virginia Open Meetings law specifies 12 very specific acceptable reasons that a meeting may be closed to the public, and Webb said only one of them would come close to pertaining to their planned discussion.
"It says 'to consider matters arising from the appointment, employment, retirement, promotion, transfer, demotion, disciplining, resignation, discharge, dismissal or compensation of a public officer or employee,'" Webb read, adding, "I don't think we can go into executive session to discuss a job description."
Authority president Dave Boden told the group it had been his suggestion that the discussion be held in executive session - with Ridder not present - because he felt she would be on the defensive and it would take longer to get through the bullet points of the description.
"Mrs. Ridder said in an email that she thought this was going to be a referendum on her job performance, and that is not the case ... but we're not going to spend 12 hours on this," he said.
The members therefore began the discussion in open session, but before they even got to the bullet points, the subject of certification was brought up.
"When they hired me, they asked me specifically if I'd work on certification," Ridder said. "Over the last five years I have taken the six courses required and I'm ready to sit for the exam."
"But Mona, we don't need all that," Boden said.
"Yes, we do," she said, adding that it is the executive director's job to be certified.
"Where is that requirement written?" Webb asked.
"It's not," Ridder replied.
She added, however, that in order for a county to receive the LED (local economic development) credits needed for funding, either the executive director or two-thirds of the board must take specific training.
The authority then began discussion of the various written duties of the director, and immediately hit a snag with the requirement for meeting with existing businesses in order to support and keep them.
Member John Lusk asked what the authority has accomplished, and Ridder brought up the business retention meetings, which Lusk noted he had not been aware of.
"Shouldn't we, as a board, know that?" he asked.
Ridder noted that some of the information is confidential.
"Who's it confidential with?" Boden asked. "Honestly, Mona, we're been stumbling over a lot of the things you've said."
Members Bob Cole and Steven Davis agreed that confidentiality is often important if a business shares sensitive information with the director.
Cole also said he felt the discussion "had digressed to being a personal attack."
Boden told the group if they felt that, they could "continue without me because I quit," and got up from the table.
"We respectfully request you reconsider," Webb told him, and member Terry Liller added, "We need you here."
Boden sat back down and the meeting continued.
Davis at one point also expressed his displeasure with the way recent development authority meetings have been progressing.
"From what I've seen in the past few months I've been on this board, I've found out we can argue really well," he said. "After seeing some of the emails, I thought I was coming to a meeting at the playground."
"If we're not all on the same page, we might as well disband," member Anne Palmer said. "We're not going to accomplish anything."
Lynn Carr, who represents the Town of Ridgeley, added, "I told my wife, 'if this gets into a (peeing) contest, I'm leaving, and I'm really close to leaving."
A short while later, as discussion of the director's job continued, Carr got up.
"I've had it," he said. "I'm going back to Ridgeley where," he said, " we have added two new businesses."
After considerably more discussion, the members did agree, however, that the executive director should be submitted to a job performance review.
"It's not fair to expect so much of someone if they've never been evaluated and know that something needs to be done," Palmer said.
"I think an evaluation would actually solve a lot of our problems," Boden said. "Hopefully, the last 45 minutes (of heated discussion) never has to happen again."
The members felt the best way of handling an evaluation would be to have the director fill out his or her own evaluation, have the authority do an evaluation, and compare the two.
Ridder will prepare a written form to be presented at the next regular meeting.