"Jerry said he had to withdraw it, that he was giving it to the fire departments," Keister said. "We could have very well used that money."
"If you found this happening once, how many other times has money like this apparently been misappropriated that we don't know about?"
Gary Abernathy, executive director, West Virginia Republican Party, which has filed an ethics complaint against Mezzatesta
In February, Mezzatesta called Hopkins and requested that the $75,000 be diverted to the Red Cross, "emergency medical service training facilities in Springfield and Romney," and Hampshire County fairgrounds, Hopkins said.
Hopkins said he never spoke to Friend about the grant transfer, but received a faxed letter purportedly from Friend the next day.
The letter was sent from the House Education Committee fax machine, and Friend's signature doesn't match dozens of other signatures on documents he signed at the Department of Education.
Hopkins said he didn't notice at the time that it had been sent from Mezzatesta's fax machine and that someone other than Friend apparently had signed the letter.
Hopkins said he didn't hear about the $75,000 grant again until two weeks ago when Mezzatesta called him about it, just days after the Gazette filed a Freedom of Information request with the Department of Education for the documents.
"He was preparing something for the Ethics Commission," Hopkins said. "He wanted to clarify that the sheltered workshop was a nonprofit."
Hampshire County's Red Cross representative, Donna Steward, said Tuesday that her agency never received the money. Also, the Romney and Springfield rescue squads don't have training facilities and didn't get any of the grant, according to Hampshire County emergency service officials.
Pancake said the volunteer fire departments will use the grant money to prepare for a "major disaster and homeland security."
Hampshire County Office of Emergency Services Director Mike Crouse said some fire departments are using the grant money to purchase equipment.
"They weren't bound to any particular thing with that grant," said Crouse, whose office also received $5,000.
The sheltered workshop also was awarded $5,000 from the grant, documents show.
Last week, the Ethics Commission started investigations into complaints that Mezzatesta improperly steered state Department of Education grants to Hampshire schools, and that he "double-dipped" by collecting his legislative pay and school board administrator salary at the same time.
In 1999, Ethics Commission members approved Mezzatesta's board office job after Hampshire school officials and Mezzatesta pledged that he would only seek federal and private foundation grants.
Hampshire school officials have acknowledged that Mezzatesta hasn't applied for or secured any federal or private grants over the past five years, even though his job description lists that as his top duty.
Earlier this month, State Department of Education officials confirmed that Mezzatesta also helped to secure a $70,000 Department of Education grant that helped offset the cost of a $143,000 audit of the Hampshire school system's finance office. The grant was supposed to be used for staff development.