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Statehouse beat: The case of the missing shotgun

I don't know about you, but I'm ready for some lighter fare, and this may fit the bill:

Other than the June 29 derecho, probably the biggest event of the summer from a state perspective was the record TV ratings and critical acclaim for the "Hatfields and McCoys" mini-series.

With all the publicity, Reo Hatfield of Wayne County inquired about whether there would be any special display regarding the famous feud in the State Museum, and whether a shotgun he had donated to the state would be included in any display.

Hatfield had given shotguns commemorating the 2003 signing of a truce by the descendants of the two families to the governors of Kentucky and West Virginia in 2008.

Delegate Don Perdue, D-Wayne, inquired about the status of the shotgun on his constituent's behalf, but it turns out there's a problem: No one can find the gun.

James Mitchell, curator for the Division of Culture and History, said the state has five firearms in its collection related to the Hatfields and McCoys: A 1905 revolver and an 1889 double-barreled Remington shotgun owned by "Devil Anse" Hatfield, a lever action rifle owned by Jim Vance, Jr., a 1905 Winchester repeating rifle owned by Cap Hatfield and a Smith & Wesson pistol owned by Rose Hatfield.

But no commemorative shotgun.

Meanwhile, as the only state official permitted to accept gifts valued at more than $25 -- and then only on behalf of the state -- the governor is required to submit a registry of gifts received to the Ethics Commission each year.

However, then-Gov. Joe Manchin's registries from 2008 and 2009 do not list the shotgun.

Perdue sent a letter of inquiry to Culture and History Commissioner Randall Reid-Smith, but as of August interim meetings had not received a formal response.

Perdue said Reid-Smith informally told him he believes the shotgun was stored in a safe in the Governor's Mansion upon receipt and is probably still there, but has yet to verify that.

***

Speaking of the governor's gift registry, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin has accepted more than 50 gift items since November 2010, first while acting as governor and, for the past eight months, as governor.

As with every governor, Tomblin has accepted a tremendous variety of gifts, ranging from the sublime to nearly ridiculous.

That includes a copy of "A Good Man" by Mark Shriver, autographed by the author; a copy of "Killbillies Outdoors," a locally produced hunting DVD; a USS West Virginia hat presented by the sub's crew; an engraved silver-plated Zippo lighter donated by the Marriott Town Center (where Tomblin stayed for many years while Senate president); a small sculpture of a coal miner, given by a visiting delegation from Turkey; a paperweight featuring a glass hologram of John Marshall, presented by Marshall University President Stephen Kopp; a yellow crystal rabbit from Shenhua Group assistant president Wenjiang Zhang; and perhaps most recently, a photograph of Chief Logan State Park, displayed at the 2012 Southern Legislative Conference and submitted by Senate President Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall.

***

The naming last week of former House Majority Leader Joe DeLong as executive director of the state Regional Jail Authority has generally been received favorably.

In his six months or so as acting executive director, DeLong has been innovative -- working with WVU professors to come up with staff scheduling software to minimize mandatory overtime, for instance.

(A demonstration of the system does show odd hours for some shifts, such as a 2-10 a.m. shift. However, that's probably preferable to a midnight-to-noon shift -- with four hours of mandatory overtime.)

Some observers, however, frown upon DeLong's efforts to find a state job for his wife, Danielle, who was recently hired as a tax clerk in the state auditor's office. (In fact, she was one of the auditor's office employees assigned to staff the agency booth at the State Fair.)

That followed DeLong's attempt to put his wife on the Regional Jail Authority payroll as a receptionist -- a plan that was shot down by then-Administration Secretary Robert Ferguson in one of his last acts before resigning that position in February.

***

Finally, the business pages have been abuzz with news that Kroger plans to expand its Ashton Place store into one of its super-store designs.

Just happens that one of those giant Krogers is located in my little hometown of Chester, Va. At least, Chester is little by Virginia standards. It's just one of several satellite cities around the perimeter of Richmond, not even worthy of being incorporated.

However, during my recent visit, I got to thinking that if Chester (population of just under 21,000) were magically relocated to West Virginia, it would be the sixth-largest city in the state.

Besides that, as home to a community college, two sizable shopping centers, and more than a dozen hotels and motels, it would be one of the more financially healthy cities in West Virginia.

Sometimes, we tend to forget how small and insignificant West Virginia is on a national scale.

Which makes it ring hollow when candidates like Bill Maloney talk big about how they will repeal Obamacare or rein in the EPA if elected.

Reach Phil Kabler at philk@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1220.


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