CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The president of the West Virginia Education Association says state Board of Education member Gayle Manchin should recuse herself from voting to hire the next state superintendent of schools because her husband, U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, is the cousin of one of the three finalists.
In an opinion piece written for The Charleston Gazette, Dale Lee wrote that the "political gamesmanship that appears to have seeped into the discussions thus far is disturbing."
Board members will meet Feb. 9 and 10, and are expected to choose state School Building Authority executive director Mark Manchin, WVU Board of Governors Chairwoman Carolyn Long or deputy state superintendent Jorea Marple as superintendent.
When he was governor, Joe Manchin appointed his wife to the state school board, and appointed his cousin to lead the School Building Authority.
"Perhaps Mark Anthony Manchin is the best candidate for the job," Lee wrote. "Would anyone believe he was if he were selected with Gayle Manchin sitting in the room when the decision is made?
"When conflict-of-interest questions enter into a conversation, most err on the side of caution and recuse themselves," Lee wrote. "It happens in court rooms, board rooms and in local board of education meetings all the time. This is one time it should also happen at the WV Board of Education."
Gayle Manchin does not plan to recuse herself, she said in a message relayed through state Department of Education spokeswoman Liza Cordeiro.
"Ultimately, she trusts the process and that every board member wants the best person for the job," Cordeiro said.
State school board President Priscilla Haden has said nothing in state law or state policy would require Manchin to recuse herself, according to Cordeiro.
State school board member Wade Linger, a Fairmont native who has voted with Manchin throughout the superintendent process, criticized some fellow board members for suggesting there is a conflict.
At a previous meeting, Linger said, other board members mulled the question of whether Gayle Manchin should recuse herself.
Those other board members, who have opposed efforts to extend the superintendent search and wanted to hurry somebody in to replace former superintendent Steve Paine, have had their eye on one candidate all along, Linger said. He did not name that person.