CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The West Virginia Ethics Commission is investigating several members of the Oceana town government, amid allegations of misspent funds and favoritism, according to residents and an internal memo from the town's lawyer.
Oceana City Councilman Don Morgan filed 14 complaints with the Ethics Commission, accusing Mayor John Roach, fellow Councilmen Bryant Whisenant and Mike Fleshman and three city employees of wrongdoing.
The complaints focus on Kenneth Graham, who works for the town as a mechanic. Morgan and 2012 mayoral candidate Jeff Laxton say Graham improperly spent $97,000 of town money on auto parts over a two-year period.
They allege that Graham spent the money at the local affiliate of Napa Auto Parts and then used what he purchased to run a private repair shop out of his home on Tyler Street, a residential area.
Morgan said the Ethics Commission found 18 invoices for parts that couldn't be used on any vehicle owned by the town.
Laxton said Graham has been running the garage for more than 10 years with the tacit permission of town officials.
"They're trying to protect this guy," Laxton said. "They're willing to go to jail for this guy."
Neither Roach nor Graham returned repeated requests for comment. Calls to Oceana City Hall went unanswered this week.
Whisenant said he was unaware of any investigation.
The Ethics Commission would neither confirm nor deny the existence of an investigation, but an internal memo from Lela Walker, attorney for the town, seems to implicitly confirm that an investigation is taking place.
The memo, dated May 19 and addressed to the mayor, City Council and town recorder, also advises city officials not to speak about the investigation.
"I understand that the Charleston Gazette has been calling City Hall asking for comments about certain matters being investigated," Walker wrote. "It is my advice to everyone that the answer 'no comment' should be given."