CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Nicholas County Commission broke the law when it created a county administrator position in August, hired a man for the job and let him set his own salary and write his own job description, a judge ruled last month.
"Such behavior is precisely the kind of conduct the West Virginia Ethics Act was designed to prevent," Judge Jack Alsop wrote in a Jan. 29 Circuit Court decision that voided the administrator position and effectively fired Roger Beverage, who had held the job for about five months.
Alsop, a Webster County judge who was filling in on special assignment for Nicholas County Judge Gary Johnson, ruled the county commissioners improperly changed the county's form of government, gave Beverage "unfettered authority" and let him set his own job description and salary to suit his needs.
The saga of the Nicholas County administrator began on Aug. 6, of last year, when the County Commission announced at a meeting it had created the position and hired Beverage to fill it, at an annual salary of $60,000. They also announced the hiring was retroactive to Aug. 1.
Neither the position nor Beverage's hiring had been posted on an agenda.
After public outcry, the Commission rescinded the hiring a week later, on Aug 12, and placed it on the agenda for another meeting on Aug. 20.
At the Aug. 20, meeting the commission again, unanimously, hired Beverage to fill the position it had just created.
On Aug. 28, the Commission sent a memo to all personnel telling them that Beverage had full authority over all departments under his control and that they should comply with all his requests.
That same day, Tim Clifford, a Nicholas County resident, filed an injunction, alleging that the creation of the position and Beverage's hiring violated state law.
At a court hearing on Dec. 5, Beverage testified that he never applied for the job, but was approached by County Commissioner Ken Altizer about the position in June.
Beverage told the court that he calculated his annual salary, and he based it on the what he could earn without interfering with his state pension.
Beverage served for more than 37 years in the West Virginia Army National Guard, retiring in 2008. He served as command sergeant, and was the highest ranking non-commissioned officer in the Guard. He is also a retired probation officer and is currently the director of the Nicholas County Day Report Center.
"They offered me a job, I took the job, I worked hard at it, that's about where we are now," Beverage said Friday. He said he thought he had made good progress in the five months he was on the job, helping to write grants and coordinate different county departments.
Judge Alsop was particularly galled that the job description for county administrator was never approved at an open meeting and was written well after Beverage was hired.