CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Ethics Commission members Thursday authorized the state Auditor's Office to provide state purchasing cards to staff members of the West Virginia University Foundation, saying the public benefit of issuing the cards outweighs any possible private gain.
The state credit cards, known as P-cards, are issued by Visa and administered by the Auditor's Office and are issued to employees of various state agencies, and counties and municipalities.
Besides reducing costs of processing transactions by check, the cards provide rebates on purchases.
Many employees at state colleges and universities are issued P-cards, but this will be the first time a nonprofit foundation has been approved to receive them.
Joan Parker, executive director of the Ethics Commission, said while that might constitute private gain for the Foundation, it is outweighed by the overriding public interest of benefiting the public university.
"That money is not going into the pocket of an individual, but the pocket of a private, nonprofit entity whose sole purpose is to benefit the public university," Parker said.
Under the Ethics Act, people who request advisory opinions are confidential, but Justin Southern, spokesman for state Auditor Glen Gainer, confirmed that the request was on behalf of the WVU Foundation.
The Foundation will piggyback on WVU's P-card contract.
In addition to rebates, Gainer has touted the P-card system for saving the state about $145 million per year over costs of processing those purchases through traditional paper transactions.
Coincidentally, Gainer entered into a conciliation agreement with the Ethics Commission last month to resolve an ethics complaint filed by Republican operative Rob Cornelius, which contended that Gainer had violated state ethics law by appearing in a promotional video produced by Visa to promote the P-card system.
Also Thursday, the commission:
• Adopted a policy that will allow it to begin publishing names of public officials and candidates who have failed to submit financial disclosures, as required under the ethics law.