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Ethics complaint dismissed against Kanawha solid waste official

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Members of the West Virginia Ethics Commission have dismissed a complaint filed against Kanawha County Solid Waste Authority board member and lobbyist Greg Sayre.

In August, Nicholas County Solid Waste director Larry Bradford filed an ethics complaint against Sayre, alleging Sayre was using his position as a lobbyist for recyclers and trash haulers to push for privatizing the Slack Street recycling center in Charleston. Bradford also alleged Sayre was trying to influence the state Solid Waste Management Board.

Sayre, appointed by the state Department of Environmental Protection to the Kanawha County Solid Waste Authority, is executive director of the West Virginia Association of Waste Haulers and Recyclers, a lobbying group. Its clients include West Virginia Cashin Recyclables, a for-profit recycling business in Nitro.

Sayre said the ethics complaint stemmed from a long-standing dispute between Sayre and Bradford over the running of the Nicholas County Solid Waste Authority, and should never have involved the Kanawha County solid waste board at all.

In a letter issued last week, state ethics officials dismissed the complaint against Sayre.

"After conducting a thorough investigation into the allegations and reviewing the relevant evidence and law, it is the opinion of the Probable Cause Review Board of the West Virginia Ethics Commission that probable cause does not exist to believe respondent Greg Sayre violated any prohibition of the Ethics Act," wrote review board chairman James Shepherd II.

"I appreciate the effort the Ethics Commission people did," Sayre said Tuesday, adding that he met with ethics officials almost weekly to discuss the allegations.

Other members of the Kanawha County Solid Waste Authority have been leery of the potential conflict of interest in having Sayre on the solid waste board. But when told about the ethics complaint in August, fellow board members came to Sayre's defense.

Fellow board members said at the time they believed Sayre was acting in the best interests of the Solid Waste Authority, recused himself from potentially conflicting votes and kept his roles as solid waste member and lobbyist separate.

In March 2012, the Solid Waste Authority voted to shut down Slack Street because of safety concerns. Eventually, the board voted to hire a private company, West Virginia Recycling, to take over the facility.

Sayre said that because of the ethics complaint, he took no part in discussions or deliberations about privatizing the recycling center. Despite the perception that he wanted a private company to take over, "I was never a proponent of privatization," Sayre said Tuesday.

"I thought our people were doing a good job," he said. "We just needed a new building.

"That's all in the past," he continued. "We have to move forward."

Reach Rusty Marks at rustymarks@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1215.


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