House Education Committee Chairman Jerry Mezzatesta collects two taxpayer-funded paychecks when he attends legislative sessions, payroll records show.
Mezzatesta, D-Hampshire, draws his legislative salary when he's in Charleston for regular and special sessions.
At the same time, he also continues to collect pay as a grant-writing administrator for Hampshire County schools, even though he's not at the board office in Romney or working on Hampshire school-related business.
No other West Virginia school employee/legislator collects two paychecks at the same time, according to school officials in 14 counties surveyed by the Sunday Gazette-Mail.
State law doesn't authorize the double-payment practice. But neither does the law expressly prohibit it.
Mezzatesta gets about $60,000 a year as a grant writer, and another $24,000 in legislative pay every year.
"He attacks people all the time, and here he is double-dipping," said Linda Martin, director of a school-reform group called Challenge West Virginia. "It's dishonest. He should be ashamed of himself."
Mezzatesta defended his two salaries, saying nonpublic employees, such as lawyers, routinely do the same.
He said state school-personnel law allows him to collect two public salaries at the same time - a statement that three West Virginia school lawyers disputed.
"You need to read the law," Mezzatesta said two weeks ago, after the Gazette-Mail requested his payroll records under the Freedom of Information Act.
He declined to answer additional questions last week.
"I'm not going to get into a rebuttal," he said. "You all have the ink."
The law Mezzatesta referred to requires schools to provide "released time" to school employees who serve in the Legislature.
The West Virginia Department of Education and county school officials consider "released time" unpaid time off.
Fourteen school employees in West Virginia take unpaid leave while serving in the Legislature.
The released-time law allows school employees to serve in the Legislature without jeopardizing "contractual rights or any other rights, privileges, benefits or accrual of experience." It says nothing about wages.
"We understand they don't get paid for [legislative time]," but they continue to accrue seniority," said Kanawha County schools attorney Jim Withrow.
Mezzatesta takes paid "professional leave" when he attends legislative sessions.
State law defines professional leave as "educational conventions, conferences or other professional meetings of teachers."
Since July, Mezzatesta has taken 65 professional-leave days - about one of every three days he was scheduled to work in Hampshire County. He took off the same percentage of days last year, citing professional leave.
Mezzatesta's professional-leave pay from Hampshire County amounts to about $15,500 over the past eight months, and more than $15,800 last year.
Mezzatesta's contract requires him to work 252 days a year.