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Statehouse Beat: GPS fracus update

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- More on General Services Division's GPS fracas: Turns out the division is a pilot project to test putting GPS tracking devices on state vehicles, with a $4,343 contract with Granger for the devices, and a $1,220 contract with Barrack's Automotive to install them on the 14 vehicles in the GSD fleet.

That occurred in January. Last year, Fleet Management had put out requests for bids for two contracts to install GPS devices on all 6,500-some passenger cars and trucks in the state vehicle fleet, but opted last summer not to award the contracts. (The fact that executive director Clay Chandler left abruptly to take a similar position with Chesapeake Energy was a contributing factor.)

Cue the big meeting last week when GSD employees were called in because one truck's GPS device was missing and presumed stolen, and in other instances, bolts or metal pieces had been installed in what management presumes were efforts to disrupt the GPS signals.

I've since been advised there is some question about whether a GPS device was ever installed on the truck in question, since the paperwork for that particular vehicle apparently can't be found. Protective Services Division Director Randy Mayhew said he could not comment, since the matter is an ongoing investigation by the Capitol police.

As for efforts to disrupt the GPS signals, I was told some GSD employees felt management was harassing them, with constant calls asking why their vehicle is at a particular location.

Administration spokeswoman Diane Holley-Brown said the calls are necessary as part of the initial set-up process for the GPS devices to (and here's a phrase I never imagined writing) calibrate the pings. In other words, they were verifying that the location the GPS device was indicating is in fact correct.

If this is what GPS devices on 14 state vehicles can cause, safe to say we can multiply the uproar by about 500 percent when they're installed on the entire state fleet.

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Regarding last week's item about the backlog of state contracts awaiting approval by the attorney general's office, Attorney General Patrick Morrisey told me he's authorized signature authority for several deputy AGs to clear up the backlog.

(Under Darrell McGraw, only one person, Dawn Warfield, was authorized to sign contracts.)

Interestingly, Morrisey did not challenge any comments here about his apparent scaling back of the Consumer Protection Division.

Speaking of, I was reminded that one of the first AG employees fired by Morrisey, Derek Walker, is the son of Denise Tucker, who just happened to be McGraw's campaign spokeswoman.

Walker was let go on Jan. 25 and hired by the treasurer's office as a receipts specialist in the Unclaimed Property Division on Jan. 28. Personnel treated it as an interagency transfer, which reportedly irked Morrisey, since that allows Walker to continue to accrue service time for his pension without interruption.

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During his tenure, McGraw didn't have a press secretary per se. Fran Hughes generally handled press inquiries as part of her duties as managing deputy attorney general.

Morrisey changed all that, not only hiring a flack -- former State Journal reporter and editor Beth Ryan -- but paying her top dollar, at a salary of $82,000. At $42 an hour, we hope she returns phone calls promptly.

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Speaking of McGraw, I got a chuckle out of a local news item in which the reporter stated he had obtained McGraw's and Jorea Marple's pensions through a Freedom of Information request.

Never mind that state employee pensions, like state employee salaries, are public record, and a simple phone call to the CPRB would have sufficed.

Also, you can ballpark a state employee's pension with this simple formula: Final salary times years of service times 2 percent. (That won't give you an exact figure, since it doesn't count credit for military service, or for converted unused leave time, etc.)

The state pension formula seems awfully generous, until you consider that the typical state employee may spend an entire career working for the state and never get close to a salary of $25,000 or more. Even with the formula, it's tough to get by these days on a $10,000 a year pension.

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This has been a tough stretch for John Raese. Not only is his West Virginia Radio Corp. apparently losing its lucrative contract to produce Mountaineer Sports Network broadcasts, but is losing a big advertiser.

Since 2009, the attorney general's office has bought $437,891 of advertising time on Raese's MetroNews network, including $319,901 in 2012 -- with more than $100,000 of ad buys in October 2012 alone.

Since Morrisey campaigned on a pledge to cease such promotional advertising if elected, we can presume that gravy train has stopped.

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Finally, once more, this is the week we get to hear the four most beautiful words in the English language: "Pitchers and catchers report."

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

 

 


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