In 2000, the West Virginia Ethics Commission Committee on Open Governmental Meetings interpreted that section of the law as requiring the Preston County Board of Education to disclose the names of affected employees prior to voting on those employees.
In that case, the committee wrote that it was, "not aware of any statutory provision which would preclude the public from knowing the identity of the person the superintendent is recommending to the county board for hire."
Flaherty said the WVU board's decision followed the law.
"The decision to hire the person who was discussed in executive session was made publicly," Flaherty said. "It's a personnel issue. It can be done; it's done all the time."
He said board members wanted to wait a day to make the announcement as a courtesy to Gee, so he could inform Ohio State and others of the decision.
Joan Parker, executive director of the West Virginia Ethics Commission, said government bodies are generally given a little more leeway when it comes to hiring because they don't want to announce an appointment until they're sure the person will accept the job.
"Based on our interpretation of the open meetings act," Parker said, "it doesn't raise any red flags."
She added that the Ethics Commission does not enforce the law and does not investigate complaints.
From 2000 to 2009, Gee was a member of the Massey Energy Co. Board of Directors and was an outspoken defender of the company's mining practices. He resigned that position under pressure from students and environmental groups.
In an April 2009 interview with Ohio State's student newspaper, The Lantern, Gee said Massey had "one of the best environmental records in the country."
The year before, Massey had been forced to pay a $20 million fine to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the largest civil penalty in the EPA's history for water pollution permit violations.
Gee was among the Massey board members targeted in civil lawsuits that alleged poor safety practices and lax oversight after a January 2006 fire that killed two workers at the company's Aracoma Alma No. 1 Mine in Logan County and the April 2010 explosion that killed 29 miners at the Upper Big Branch Mine in Raleigh County.
U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin is continuing a criminal investigation into Upper Big Branch and Massey's safety practices, and has said in court filings that former Massey executives and board members "may be, or may become" targets in the ongoing inquiry. Goodwin declined comment Friday.
Flaherty represents former Massey CEO Don Blankenship in a still-pending civil lawsuit filed on behalf of Massey shareholders after the Upper Big Branch explosion. The plaintiffs in that case allege that Massey officials misled investors by regularly touting its safety practices while routinely ignoring government standards and systematically hiding violations from federal inspectors.
The WVU Board of Governors has said the interim president will not be a candidate for the permanent presidency and that its members hope to name the permanent president by next fall.
Gee will serve as an adviser for the presidential search committee, which will be chaired by Dailey and will include 18 other university representatives.
Gee was born in Utah and earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Utah. He earned a law degree and a doctorate in education from Columbia University. He has one daughter and five grandchildren.
Reach David Gutman at david.gut...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5119.
Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kw...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.