Morgantown's Christmas Firings: The Cruelest Christmas Story in City History

City of Morgantown welcome sign in front of WVU Coliseum, April 2024
City of Morgantown welcome sign in front of WVU Coliseum, April 2024

On December 21, 2023, up to 18 City of Morgantown employees received an email from the payroll system.

Nothing out of the norm.

City employees receive this email every 2 weeks. It's payday!

City employees receive termination notice with no advance warning, 3 days before Christmas

Excited to see their latest paycheck just before Christmas, these employees opened the email to find a Termination Notice.

Termination Notice: The notice claimed a "need for expenditure reduction" and a need for the reduction in the overall BOPARC workforce.

Fellow Mountaineers, put yourself in their shoes. Imagine having wrapped gifts under the Christmas tree for all your family and friends. Now imagine you suddenly lose your job--in the dead of winter holidays.

Should you quietly unwrap some of the gifts and return them to the store for cash? Will you be able to pay rent next month? How about buying food, which is already sky-high, especially for lower wage workers.

While Christmas Day usually brings smiles and joy, think about the feeling of dread and insecurity knowing you are suddenly jobless and your former city government employer could not care less, after blindsiding you 3 days before Christmas.

This was the lonely nightmare experienced by up to 18 mountaineers.

WVMAD was tipped off to the terminations by a BOPARC insider who requested anonymity given the circumstances. We attempted to verify the number of affected employees and identify those responsible. However, the city has chosen to hide.

City Mayor Jenny Selin refused to comment on this story because it involved "personnel decisions," according to a one sentence email sent to WVMAD. Mayor Selin also serves on BOPARC's Board of Directors.

Eureka Cafe is 100% funded by Morgantown's taxpayers and wholly operated by the City of Morgantown's parks and recreation department, BOPARC. We were unable to find any other examples of government-owned restaurants, except for the Communist Party of Cuba, which for decades operated over 9,000 government restaurants, until 2014 when Cuba announced they would sell them all to entrepreneurs.

The Dominion Post reported on this unusual arrangement in February of 2024, two months after the firings, in a story called BOPARC’s Eureka Cafe is popular, and a little complicated. BOPARC Executive Director Melissa Wiles bragged that Eureka Cafe made a profit in January, the month following the December staff terminations.

"[Melissa] Wiles recently explained to the BOPARC board of directors, the cafe’s budget was reigned in late last year," writes The Dominion Post.

Public records show at least 25 individuals were employed by Eureka Cafe during the year of 2023. BOPARC states in the February article that only 7 are currently employed. The remaining 18 employees were terminated or quit between 2023 and 2024.

WVMAD was granted a Freedom of Information Act request for public records showing the cafe's profits and loses. However, since March 13th, the city has ignored and dodged our attempts to obtain these documents for this story. We will continue to investigate until the truth is brought to light in what we have dubbed Morgantown's Cruelest Christmas Story.

What do you think, Morgantown? Do you believe Mayor Jenny Selin is heartless and acted cowardly by allowing termination notices to be emailed on Christmas?