CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A county commissioner may operate a business with the county prosecuting attorney, so long as the commissioner does not vote on any matters dealing directly with the prosecutor, the state Ethics Commission ruled Thursday.
According to the advisory opinion, the commissioner had started a business last year with the county prosecutor and another individual to refurbish and sell apartment buildings and houses.
Members of the Ethics Commission concluded that the business arrangement would not pose a conflict, although the county commission has oversight over the prosecutor's office, including setting the office's budget.
The commissioner may continue to vote on issues involving the prosecutor's office, but should recuse himself on matters directly involving the county prosecutor, the Ethics opinion concludes.
Commission member Douglas Sutton asked that the advisory opinion clarify that the county prosecutor's salary is set by law, and not by the county commission.
"I never think we can be too redundant," he noted.
Earlier this year, Beckley lawyer John Wooton withdrew as candidate for the Raleigh County Commission, after a State Bar advisory opinion concluded he would not be able to practice criminal defense law if elected.
That opinion concluded it would be a conflict of interest, since the county commission controls the budget for the county prosecuting attorney's office, and theoretically could cut its budget to limit the office's ability to prosecute criminal cases.
Identities of persons requesting advisory opinions from the Ethics Commission are confidential.
Also Thursday, the commission: