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Tomblin names Harrison delegate to 12th District Senate seat

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A Harrison County official's effort to force a do-over of a meeting last week to select state Senate nominees won't gain any traction from the state Ethics Commission.

Michael Queen, president of the Harrison County school board, contends the 12th Senatorial District Democratic Executive Committee acted improperly in making the selections. Queen was not selected as one of the committee's three nominees to fill the state Senate vacancy created when Sen. Joe Minard, D-Harrison, resigned last week to become Senate clerk.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin on Wednesday evening appointed Delegate Sam Cann, D-Harrison, to fill Minard's seat. The appointment is effective immediately.

Queen has argued that, in addition to alleged voting irregularities, the eight-member panel had violated the state's Open Meetings Act by providing only one day's notice of its meeting.

Under the Open Meetings law, public bodies must publish notice of meetings at least five days in advance.

On Tuesday, Queen asked the Ethics Commission to look into the matter, stating, "I am now coming before the West Virginia Ethics Commission to formally ask that the commission declare that the calling the meeting of the committee...used to vote and deliberate on nominees submitted to Governor Tomblin violated the West Virginia Open Meetings Act.  As such, the committee should be forced to reconvene."

However, in a 2006 advisory opinion, the Ethics Commission determined that state political party executive committees are not subject to the Open Meetings law.

"Its not considered a public agency," Ethics Commission Executive Director Theresa Kirk said Wednesday.

"Simply stated, political party executive committees are not administrative units of state, county, or municipal government," the opinion states. "Therefore, they are not subject to the requirements of the Open Meetings Act."

However, the opinion noted such committees are bound by state Code 3-1-9, regarding political party committees.

That law states that executive committees must give public notice, as well as notice to all committee members, prior to any meetings, a requirement which the 12th Senatorial committee apparently met with one day's advance notice.

The committee, which met last Thursday, had selected Cann and Delegate Tim Miley, both D-Harrison, and Harrison County Commissioner Mike Romano as the three nominees to fill the remainder of Minard's Senate term.

Cann was first elected to the House of Delegates in 1994 and is the senior

member of the Harrison County legislative delegation. In the House, he has held

a number of leadership roles including chairman of the Committee on Small Business

and Economic Development and co-chairman of the Joint Committee on Economic Development, according to a statement from Tomblin's office.

"On Friday and Saturday, I quietly asked every Democratic committee member I know to reconsider and reconvene," Queen said Wednesday. "It goes to show you how low some people will allow their integrity to drop."

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


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