Published On: Wed, May 7th, 2014

Ethics Commission clears Sheriff

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Pocahontas County High School welding student Frederica Gardner shows off her metal sculpture to the Pocahontas County Commission on Tuesday morning. Gardner was present to support a request from welding instructor Dervin Lambert for a $2,000 contribution for for travel expenses to attend the SkillsUSA National Competition in Kansas City. The commission approved the request.

Pocahontas County High School welding student Frederica Gardner shows off her metal sculpture to the Pocahontas County Commission on Tuesday morning. Gardner was present to support a request from welding instructor Dervin Lambert for a $2,000 contribution for for travel expenses to attend the SkillsUSA National Competition in Kansas City. The commission approved the request.

The West Virginia Ethics Commission dismissed a complaint against Pocahontas County Sheriff David Jonese. The Pocahontas County Commission filed the complaint in December, 2012, after apparent security camera footage from inside the Sheriff’s Department jailhouse office appeared on a Jonese campaign website. The video appeared to show then Pocahontas County Prosecutor Donna Price making a rude gesture with her hand after the Sheriff left the room.

During Tuesday morning’s commission meeting, Commissioner David Fleming read an April 30 letter from Kimberly Weber, Ethics Commission General Counsel.

“The complaint was referred to the Probable Cause Review Board of the Ethics Commission,” Fleming read. “On a prior date, the Review Board found that the allegations in the complaint could, if taken as true, constitute a material violation of the Ethics Act. As such, it was ordered that a Notice of Investigation be issued to the respondent. After conducting a thorough investigation into the allegations and reviewing the relevant evidence and law, it is the opinion of the Probable Cause Review Board of the West Virginia Ethics Commission that probable cause does not exist to believe respondent David Jonese materially violated any prohibitions of the Ethics Act.”

Tate speaks against RAD

Matt Tate, of Mill Point, spoke to the commission to oppose the proposed resort area district (RAD) at Snowshoe. Tate characterized the proposed district as an undemocratic grant of government power to a corporation.

Tate took special exception with the proposed RAD’s restriction of voting rights to property owners.

“The board is elected by landowners,” Tate said. “So, the RAD is an area and anybody who owns land in that area gets to vote for who’s on that board. That’s pretty much where I have problems. Any other form of government we have in the United States, it’s people who live in that area who get to vote for who’s on whatever it is. Whether it be on the national, state or local level, it’s people who live in that area, not people who own land in the area.

“The restriction on voting to be a landowner was repealed in the United States in 1830 by Andrew Jackson. He had a program he called, ‘elected by the common man,’ because back then, not many folks owned land. This is a giant step backwards.”

Matt Tate, of Mill Point, speaks to the Pocahontas County Commission on Tuesday morning. Tate spoke to oppose the creation of a resort area district at Snowshoe. Pictured, l-r: County Commissioner David Fleming, County Commissioner William Beard, County Commission Administrative Assistant Sue Helton, County Clerk Missy Bennett and Tate.

Matt Tate, of Mill Point, speaks to the Pocahontas County Commission on Tuesday morning. Tate spoke to oppose the creation of a resort area district at Snowshoe. Pictured, l-r: County Commissioner David Fleming, County Commissioner William Beard, County Commission Administrative Assistant Sue Helton, County Clerk Missy Bennett and Tate.

Tate noted that a U.S. citizen, residing full-time in a rental property at Snowshoe, would not have the right to vote, but that a citizen of a foreign country, who owns land at Snowshoe, would have the right to vote in RAD board elections.

Tate raised further concerns with a RAD’s unlimited ability to borrow money. West Virginia municipalities are limited in their borrowing to 2.5 percent of assessed property values, whereas the statute authorizing the creation of RADs contains no such limit, he said.

Commissioners urged Tate to attend a proposed RAD public meeting on July 7 at 5:30 p.m., when Snowshoe officials and other concerned citizens will be present to debate the proposed RAD. The commission scheduled another public meeting to consider and act on the RAD petition on Saturday, July 19 at 10 a.m.

Henderson resigns as county sanitarian

During board member updates, Commissioner Jamie Walker reported from the Board of Health that Sanitarian David Henderson had resigned. Walker said the board also needed a new nurse and was considering hiring a nurse to train as Sanitarian.

Walker also reported that the Farmland Protection Board had hired a new attorney and the tempo of board activity had increased.

Commissioner William Beard reported from the Greenbrier Valley Economic Development Corporation that a proposal by the Board of Education to occupy the Edray Industrial Park likely would not go forward because of a lack of funding for the relocation.

Beard said the Rahall Building in Maxwelton was filled to capacity since Mountain Lumber leased space in the facility last year. Beard said a brewery leasing space in the building would open on July 1.

In other business, the County Commission:
- Approved an expenditure of $4,472, as matching funds, to obtain more than $18,000 in state funding to pay bills for previous construction at the Marlinton Rail Depot;
- Approved a $2,000 contribution to Pocahontas County High school for travel expenses to the SkillsUSA National Competition;
- Disapproved a $1,000 contribution to Mountain Resource Conservation and Development Area;
- Approved a $425 contribution to the Pocahontas County Chapter of the Vietnam Veterans of America for indoor flags and flag stands;
- Deferred action on a contribution request from the Northern Pocahontas County Food Pantry until non-profit status can be determined and;
- Referred a drug testing selection policy to Prosecuting Attorney Eugene Simmons.

The next regular county commission meeting is scheduled for May 20 at 5:30 p.m.

About the Author

- Geoff Hamill can be contacted at gshamill@pocahontastimes.com