CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- When we hear gossip that a married politician has a lover, we usually ignore it, considering it a private family problem between politico and spouse. Besides, newspaper staff members don't want to become sleazy paparazzi, staking out apartments at night with telephoto lenses.
But when an affair involves government employees drawing taxpayer salaries or traveling to hotels at public expense, the problem becomes more serious. That's what happened when involvement with a Development Office aide forced former Gov. Bob Wise not to seek re-election.
Now the messy love-life of Kanawha prosecutor Mark Plants is in the spotlight. The Daily Mail first outlined this record:
In 2009, Sarah Foster, wife of a Charleston police detective, joined the prosecutor staff in a clerical post at $23,000 salary. She rapidly got raises -- even when other staff members suffered pay cuts -- until she was paid $45,000 with a title of "prosecutor's assistant."
Foster repeatedly got traffic tickets which were erased. Two were wiped out by assistant prosecutors Ben Freeman and Adam Campbell.
Plants's wife obtained a divorce in 2012. The Fosters were divorced last October. Plants and Foster were married two months later in Kentucky.
This situation is compounded a bit because Plants is a Republican, and his party loudly champions "family values."
The State Bar's legal ethics committee has received a complaint against the prosecutor and the two assistant prosecutors who dismissed Foster's traffic tickets. Details and findings remain unknown.
As we said, personal family problems of politicians generally should stay private -- but when they involve public offices, government payrolls and court processes, the public deserves answers.