The West Virginia Ethics Commission has dismissed a complaint against Pocahontas Public Service District (PSD) board member David Litsey.
In June 2011, Snowshoe Mountain, Inc., and a group of Snowshoe area landowners including Ralph Beckwith, Russell Holt, Harvey Galford, Frank Santmeyer and Ike Morris filed the complaint. The complaint alleged that Litsey had a conflict of interests and was using his position as a PSD board member for personal gain.
The group based its complaint on Litsey’s 25 percent ownership of a 470 acre parcel on Mace Knob and his membership in the now inactive Snowshoe Property Owners Council. The complaint alleged that Litsey advocated for keeping a sewage treatment plant on the mountain in order to increase development potential of the Mace Knob property.
Under the West Virginia Ethics Act, a public official may not vote on a matter in which he or an immediate family member has a financial interest. The law provides an exception if the person is “affected as a member of, and to no greater extent than any other member of … [a] class of persons
or class of businesses.” The law defines “class” as “not fewer than five similarly situated persons or businesses.”
Litsey consistently maintained that he was a member of a class as defined in the statute.
“Am I in a special class because I own a part interest in 450-some acres on the north face of Mace Knob?” Litsey said in a 2011 interview with The Pocahontas Times. “The answer is – there are a slew of people who own 450 acres, more or less, adjacent to Snowshoe, not the least of which is virtually all of the plaintiffs – which, as I recall, number six.”
In its order, the Ethics Commission wrote:
“After conducting a thorough investigation into the allegations and reviewing the relevant evidence and law, it is the opinion of the West Virginia Ethics Commission that there is reasonable doubt to believe that Respondent [Litsey] materially violated any provision of the Ethics Act as alleged in [the complaint]. Therefore, in accordance with the West Virginia code section 6B-2-4, [the complaint] is hereby dismissed.”