Statehouse Beat: More on secret probation
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Tuesday marks Day 50 of the double-secret probation (actually, they're calling it paid "reassignment leave") for Department of Health and Human Resources lawyers Susan Perry and Jennifer Taylor, and communications director John Law.
Also Tuesday, Parkersburg attorney Walt Auvil will be filing a formal, 30-day notice of intent to file suit against DHHR acting secretary Rocco Fucillo on behalf of Perry and Taylor, I'm advised.
(Under a 2002 state law, individuals must provide 30 days' advance notice of intent to sue any state agency or official.)
Unlike many notices of intent to sue, I'm told this notice will go into detail as to how Fucillo's actions have defamed Perry and Taylor.
(In addition to the mysterious circumstances regarding the suspensions, Fucillo has told legislative leaders he will be vindicated when the matter is resolved, and has initiated a review by the DHHR inspector general's office of the awarding of an advertising and marketing contract at the same time the three were placed on leave. The intent to sue, I'm told, will contend those actions were taken to create the false impression the three had acted improperly in the awarding of the advertising contract.)
On a positive side, Fucillo has not billed the state for costs of commuting to Charleston from his home in Fairmont, or for overnight lodging in Charleston since late July, when a prior column made issue of those expenditures.
Some statehouse observers, meanwhile, have been taken aback by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's failure to intervene in the matter.
Besides having more pressing matters to deal with, Tomblin's leadership style is one of consensus building and conflict avoidance, which served him well as Senate president, but can leave something to be desired at a time when swift action is called for.
While the rumor is that West Virginia Public Broadcasting Executive Director Dennis Adkins will step down before the next Educational Broadcasting Authority meeting on Sept. 12, Adkins said that's news to him.
"I have no reason to do that. I'm just waiting to hear what they [the EBA] decide to do," he said.
At its meeting Aug. 22, the authority met in closed session for about an hour to discuss Adkins' employment status. Reportedly, the members were not impressed by Adkins' proposals for cutting WVPB expenses in light of ongoing revenue reductions.
Speaking of broadcasters, a few weeks back, I kudo'ed WCHS radio for its extensive coverage of storm recovery efforts following the June 29 derecho.
However, the station's coverage, and by extension, the MetroNews network's coverage of the Republican National Convention, left something to be desired, in that correspondent/talk show host Mike Agnello's stay in Tampa was underwritten by several on-air sponsors -- one of which was the state Republican Party.
(There's always been an uneasy truce between the newsgathering and business sides of news organizations. There's an old newspaper industry line about how there are two businesses immune from exposés: auto dealerships and grocery store chains. Of course, that was back when newspapers could afford to have investigative reporters ... )
While it's doubtful that WCHS needed a check from the state GOP to persuade Agnello to preach the party line, it raises issues about the objectivity of their campaign coverage at a time when scrutiny is high, since the station and radio network's owner, John Raese, is again running for U.S. Senate.
Case in point: Back in the spring, when Raese infamously compared a health department's requirement that businesses post "no smoking" signs with requiring Jews to wear yellow stars in Nazi Germany, the outrageous comment drew significant coverage locally and nationally -- but not a mention on MetroNews ...
Finally, speaking of Raese, another of his business enterprises, Pikewood Creative, has produced a 91/2-minute video biography for his campaign.
The first half of the video is a rather dull recitation of his family history, which goes on at length to show that Raese had the doubly good fortune to be born into wealth on both sides of his family tree.
However, it is telling that when the video gets to a rundown of Raese's extensive business holdings, it goes on in great detail about his radio stations, and even about his private golf course outside of Morgantown. However, the family owned newspaper, The Dominion Post in Morgantown, barely warrants a mention in the video, somewhere between Greer Limestone and Greer Asphalt.
At the end, Raese addresses why he's running for Senate, and says the usual stuff about wanting to change the direction of the country, going on to say he wants to "assure a better life for Liz, Jane, and Agnes" (his wife and daughters).
Heck, they're already in the 1 percent, have access to a private Learjet, and live in a $3 million mansion in Palm Beach, Fla. Just how much better could their lives possibly get?
Reach Phil Kabler at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-1220.