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Tomblin's deputy chief of staff departs

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A senior aide to Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin plans to step down and take a new job with the American Red Cross in West Virginia.

Erica Mani, who served as Tomblin's deputy chief of staff the past two years, takes over as CEO of the Red Cross' West Virginia regional office on Nov. 29.

She replaces John Golden, who left the Red Cross on Sept. 1. Mani's departure comes a week after Tomblin won a second term as West Virginia's governor. Mani made $105,900 a year as Tomblin's deputy chief.

"The Red Cross is always there for our communities in times of need and has such dedicated volunteers, donors and staff," Mani said in prepared statement. "I am thrilled to be joining the Red Cross family and look forward to serving the people of the West Virginia region in this new capacity."

As the organization's CEO, Mani will supervise 11 offices and 33 employees across the state. The Red Cross, which provides disaster relief and collects lifesaving blood, has hundreds of volunteers in West Virginia.

"Erica brings a passion for serving the people of West Virginia coupled with strong relationships across the state," said Joe Becker, vice president of the Red Cross' Mid-Atlantic region.

As Tomblin's deputy chief of staff, Mani served as vice chairwoman of the West Virginia Broadband Deployment Council, a group set to distribute $4 million in state funds next month.

Mani also helped oversee a $126.3 million federal grant designed to expand high-speed Internet in West Virginia. The U.S. Commerce Department's inspector general is reviewing West Virginia's use of the stimulus funds.

Mani was recently mentioned in a lawsuit filed by two former lawyers with the Department of Health and Human Resources.

Last month, the two DHHR administrators, who were placed on leave after raising questions about an agency marketing and advertising contract, sued acting DHHR Secretary Rocco Fucillo.

In July, Mani had inquired about the contract, and a DHHR lawyer, Jennifer Taylor, raised questions about the scoring process, according to the lawsuit.

In a subsequent conversation the same day, Mani notified Taylor that the governor's office didn't want to get involved in the dispute, the suit says.

However, Mani told Taylor the state would temporarily extend the existing marketing contract with the Arnold Agency.

DHHR had awarded the new contract to Fahlgren Mortine, an Ohio-based public relations firm. The Arnold Agency received the second-highest score.

Kanawha County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Plants is investigating whether DHHR administrators tried to rig the contract for the Arnold Agency. The lawyers contend they were whistleblowers.

Before coming to the governor's office, Mani was executive director of the West Virginia Consolidated Public Retirement Board, which oversees state employees' pensions and other retirement plans.

Mani also served as deputy Cabinet secretary for the state Department of Revenue, and general counsel under Gov. Bob Wise.

Before working in state government, Mani was a lawyer with Bowles Rice McDavid Graff and Love, where she specialized in government relations and employment law. She lives in Charleston with her husband and two children.

Reach Eric Eyre at ericeyre@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4869.


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