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Workers can't sell PSD surplus on eBay

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- State ethics commissioners left no doubt Thursday that it is illegal for a public service district to allow its employees to take used or surplus PSD property to sell on eBay for personal profit.

"You can't give away property to your employees for any reason," Ethics Commission Executive Director Joan Parker said of the practice.

Commissioner Jack Buckalew, a former state senator and State Police superintendent, said he found it hard to believe anyone would think such actions could be acceptable.

"Have we ever had an opinion on asking dumb questions?" Buckalew asked.

However, it was not the PSD but Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper who requested the advisory opinion, after raising concerns about employees of the Union Public Service District in Cross Lanes being allowed to sell surplus property and keep the proceeds.

"When I complained about it, they admitted it was going on, but said, 'we don't have a policy about this,'" Carper said of management of the PSD.

Carper said he requested the advisory opinion to clarify that the practice of giving surplus public property to employees for their personal gain violates the state ethics law.

Also Thursday, the Ethics Commission:

* Met in executive session to approve conciliation agreements to resolve ethics complaints against three people, including Beckley Mayor Emmett Pugh, who was accused of accepting gifts from local businesses in exchange for free use of city resources.

The agreements will not become public record until they are signed by those involved, but Pugh reportedly agreed to retire as mayor and pay restitution.

* Ruled that a county chief deputy sheriff may also serve as the county's 911 director, but cannot receive additional pay for that position.

Commissioners did not identify the county in question, except to say it is a small, rural county. Kanawha County Sheriff Johnny Rutherford also is executive director of the county's Metro 911, but does not receive additional compensation for that position.

* Allowed two legislators to continue to co-host a weekly television program that airs during legislative sessions, and is sponsored by a nonprofit foundation, so long as they do not solicit funding to underwrite the program costs, and do not endorse or identify the foundation during the broadcasts.

* Approved a contract exemption to allow the State Police to enter into a contract to buy AR-15 rifles from a company owned by Roger Reed, a former State Police trooper and current armorer for the State Police.

State Police sent bid packages out to five firearms distributors, but only Reed's West Virginia Law Enforcement Distributors Inc. submitted a bid, with prices described as "significantly below wholesale."

Commissioner Ron Salmons said AR-15s have been in high demand in past months over concerns of possible federal bans on assault rifles, and said gun dealers are getting top-dollar for the weapons, which may have discouraged companies from bidding on the State Police contract.

"There is demand like crazy for them," he said.

* Approved employment exemptions for nine state officials and employees, including former Tomblin chief of staff Rob Alsop, and acting Health and Human Resources Secretary Rocco Fucillo.

The exemptions allow state employees and officials to seek employment with regulated private-sector businesses.

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


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