CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- For three years, state emergency communications director Joe Gonzalez has helped manage a $33 million microwave tower expansion project in West Virginia funded by the federal economic stimulus.
Now, Gonzalez is touting the California firm that supplied radio equipment for the project on the company's main Web page -- even though the state Ethics Commission has made clear that public officials shouldn't appear in such online video testimonials.
Gonzalez, communications director for the state Office of Emergency Medical Services, appears in an online video for Aviat Networks, a Santa Clara, Calif.-based company that received $27 million in stimulus funds for radio equipment that's being attached to 17 new towers in West Virginia's statewide emergency radio communications network.
On Tuesday, Gonzalez said he has never seen the video and didn't know Aviat had posted it on the company's home page and YouTube channel.
"I just did a video at a conference with them, and they asked questions about how it was working, and I answered them," Gonzalez said. "It is what it is. I have nothing to hide."
Aviat removed the video from its website and YouTube channel Wednesday morning.
In the video, Gonzalez remarks, "Aviat truly wants to make the system work, and they want it to work well...It's not about let's sell radios and make a few bucks, come in and leave town."
Gonzalez later goes on to say, "It has been a full teamwork project, and we're very satisfied with Aviat."
The video testimonial was first posted April 24.
Two months earlier, the state Ethics Commission started a widely publicized investigation of state Auditor Glen Gainer and four state agency administrators who took part in an online Visa advertising campaign. In an April 3 advisory opinion, the Ethics Commission ruled that state officials can't promote programs or products on a company's website.
The commission concluded that Gainer gave "the prestige of his public position to a private business for which there is no overriding public benefit."
Despite the ruling, Gonzalez showed up in the Aviat video testimonial three weeks later. Aviat also took quotes from the video and posted them on the company's main Web page and another Web page.
Gonzalez said Tuesday he told the truth when asked at the conference about Aviat's radio equipment and satellites.
He said Aviat didn't pay him for the testimonials.