When the training event roster was given to the state so that those who took part could receive credit for attending, state investigators noticed that the number Harrah used wasn't assigned to him.
By Aug. 12, 2009, Harrah had been transferred to Massey's Slip Ridge Cedar Grove Mine. There, he conducted at least six pre-shift and on-shift safety examinations on Aug. 13 and 14 before he left the company when investigators started questioning his qualifications.
In October 2009, then-state mine safety director Ron Wooten filed a formal petition seeking to have Harrah's license to work underground as a rank-and-file miner permanently revoked.
Harrah appeared at a March 2 hearing before the state mine appeals board -- the body that considers whether to punish miners and foremen who violate safety rules -- without an attorney and offered sometimes-conflicting accounts of what happened.
On the one hand, Harrah told board members that Massey officials had "been pushing me into this bossing stuff and, one day, I came in and -- bam -- there [his foreman's card] is."
Harrah said he wanted to admit to the allegations against him, but insisted several times that he did not actually forge a foreman's card.
"Really and truthfully, I didn't forge any papers," Harrah testified, according to an audio recording of the meeting obtained by the Gazette-Mail. "I didn't want to endanger anybody. I'm just not that kind of person."
"They're saying I forged it, but I didn't," Harrah said. "I didn't know the number was somebody else's when I was using it. It's got my name on that card, but I don't know how it got there. I'm in a little bit of a guilty way, because I should have known better than that."
Harrah testified that he did not know whether he passed or failed the test, and that two Massey officials, Jason Whitehead and Rick Hodge, gave him a number to call to check his results. Harrah said he didn't know who he was calling, but when he called the number, he was faxed a paper with a foreman's certification number. He later received a foreman's card with yet another number in the mail, Harrah said.
Clinton Smith, chairman of the mine appeals board, said board members hear only the cases that are before them and saw no need to take any further steps after ruling.
"There was nothing put to us that indicated that it was some sort of vast conspiracy or something else going on," Smith said. "I don't remember there being any testimony about those individuals being involved in any other such incidents."
Across the coal industry, though, miners misstating their fireboss qualifications or working with forged foreman certificates is not that unusual.
Following the Sago Mine disaster in 2006, a former International Coal Group foreman was sentenced to probation after pleading guilty to one felony count of falsifying a safety record. Robert L. Dennison was originally charged in a 116-count indictment that focused on 113 instances in which he allegedly certified that he was a licensed foreman when he really wasn't.
Just last week, a miner named Neil A. Hasen was indicted by a federal grand jury in Charleston for allegedly performing five safety examinations at a Mason County mine using another worker's foreman's certification.
U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin said his office would look closely at any evidence of forging of mine foreman certifications and safety checks done by miners using forged licenses.
"It shouldn't be tolerated if someone didn't have the proper certification, because a mistake can have catastrophic consequences," Goodwin said. "We will be vigilant when something like this occurs."
Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kw...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.