"We're not showing any favoritism to anybody," Gonzalez said. "I'm not endorsing anybody's product. I just don't do that."
In the April video, Gonzalez repeatedly praises Aviat's equipment, which includes "encryption" designed to thwart eavesdroppers and hackers. "There wasn't a huge cost involved," Gonzalez says on the Aviat Networks video. "It was designed in. It is a beautiful thing."
Gonzalez has additional ties to Aviat. In 2010, he recommended that the Lewis County Commission award a contract to Aviat, which supplied radio equipment for a tower in Roanoke and other locations.
Aviat also posted written testimonials from Gonzalez about the company in 2011. But Aviat removed Gonzalez's comments from its website after The Charleston Gazette reported that Gonzalez hired the son of state Homeland Security Director Jimmy Gianato to work on the tower project. Gonzalez heads the "towers team" and reports to Gianato, who's overseeing a $126.3 million high-speed Internet expansion project that includes the towers.
The Ethics Commission's April advisory opinion on Gainer mirrored previous rulings that barred public officials from endorsing products.
"The Ethics Commission is unable to envision a circumstance where a public servant could appear, or be referenced, in an advertisement for a product, service of business without violating the Ethics Act," the agency concluded in an opinion last year.
Earlier this year, the Ethics Commission also investigated a complaint against Gainer filed by Republican activist Rob Cornelius, who alleged Gainer broke state ethics laws by appearing in the online Visa ads. In June, Gainer settled the complaint, agreeing to donate $1,000 to a Charleston hospital. Visa also pulled the ads from its website.
The West Virginia Legislative Auditor's Office is reviewing the state's use of stimulus funds to upgrade the emergency communication tower network.
The tower system -- called the Statewide Interoperable Radio Network -- is used exclusively by first responders: police officers, firefighters, 911 operators and paramedics.
Gonzalez said the new towers are up and running, and he has no complaints about Aviat's equipment.
"If their equipment wasn't any good, I'd be the first to say so," he said. "But it's working well. That's the God's honest truth."
Gonzalez added that he has visited Aviat's headquarters in California once, and the company's Texas factory four times. He said the state paid his travel expenses. An Aviat spokesman would not comment Tuesday.
Aviat recently invited Gonzalez to speak at a company-sponsored conference to talk about West Virginia's $33 million microwave tower project. Gonzalez said he has asked Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's office to give the OK.
Reach Eric Eyre at erice...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4869.