CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia ethics commissioners on Thursday approved an employment exemption for their outgoing executive director, Theresa Kirk, allowing her to seek a job in the private sector, and later met in executive session to discuss a transition plan for the agency. "This is what she wants to do at this stage in her career. I hate to lose her," commission chairman Kemp Morton said before the vote for Kirk's employment exemption.
Kirk, who has been executive director of the commission since February 2009, and was its legal counsel for more than five years before that appointment, said earlier this week that she feels it's time to make a change after more than nine years at the commission.
Commissioners did not take any action after the executive session. Kirk said she plans to stay on at the commission for 60 to 90 days to assist in the transition and to help commissioners prepare their legislative agenda for the 2013 regular session.
Additionally, the commission approved four other employment exemptions in order to allow four ranking state employees to obtain private-sector employment. They include Tax Commissioner Craig Griffith, Deputy Attorney General David Stuart, gubernatorial deputy chief of staff Erica Mani and Department of Environmental Protection attorney Joe Jenkins.
Also Thursday, the commission:
• Conditionally approved allowing a local health department to serve as a pass-through on a grant from a private foundation to a private nonprofit corporation that is promoting public-health issues.
The pass-though arrangement, believed to be with the Cabell-Huntington Health Department, was needed because the nonprofit has temporarily lost its tax-exempt status as a 501(c)(3) organization.
The propriety of the pass-through arrangement prompted an extended discussion Thursday.
"Even if we find a legal loophole, I think we're creating an unethical thing here," Commissioner Douglas Sutton said.
"We're creating a standard, which we've never done, that the end justifies the means," added deputy counsel Marty Wright.