Frankly, I wouldn't know Joshua Austin from Josh Hamilton (actually, that's not true ... I got to see Hamilton play a Rookie League game in 1999 in Burlington, N.C.), but his hiring has evidently caused the first controversy within the Tomblin quasi-administration.
Austin was hired as Tomblin's public policy deputy director, but evidently his past history of posting derogatory comments about state politics in general, and Southern West Virginia politicians in particular, on various computer blogs didn't sit well with the powers that be in the Tomblin quasi-administration.
As of press time, Austin has been booted out of the inner sanctum of the governor's office all the way down to the Greenbrooke Building, where he's been assigned to work for Martha Walker in the Governor's Office of Health Enhancement and Lifestyle Planning (GOHELP).
Hallie Mason, who had been hired as executive assistant to the governor, has moved over to public policy.
There was only one additional new hire report for the governor's office last week: Tina Stinson, who had been administrative secretary to Tomblin spokeswoman Jacqueline Proctor in her previous post as deputy commissioner of Culture and History.
Finally, speaking of health, the city fathers in Nitro couldn't have picked a worse time to dredge up their old proposal to secede from the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department to allow smoking at the Mardi Gras Casino, and other establishments around town.
That comes on the heels of the most recent report from the Lottery Commission, which shows that Mardi Gras, which has long been the smallest of the state's four racetrack/casinos in terms of revenue, has moved up to the No. 2 revenue-producer, passing both the Mountaineer and Wheeling Island casinos -- both of which permit smoking.
Which raises the issue of whether the real reasons for the downturn in casino revenues are the weak economy and increased competition in neighboring states -- and not because someone is being deprived of the opportunity to partake in two (or possibly three) vices simultaneously.
Meanwhile, the same day the Nitro council's proposal was hitting the news, U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin issued her report finding that there is no acceptable level of exposure to tobacco smoke -- that exposure to smoke from even a single cigarette causes permanent physical damage, and poses the risk of heart attack.
That being said, how could a bureaucracy created for the express purpose of promoting smoking purport to call itself a Health Department?
Perhaps the Nitro Death Squad would be a more appropriate name for this new agency...
Reach Phil Kabler at ph...@wvgazette.com or 340-348-1220.