Justice campaign announces “Coaches for Jim”

August 17, 2015 by joelebert

From a press release issued today by the Justice campaign:

Today, businessman Jim Justice visited Morgantown and Huntington alongside former Marshall University football coach Bob Pruett and former West Virginia University football coach Don Nehlen to kickoff “Coaches for Jim,”— a citizen-led coalition to reach out to local coaches across West Virginia. Justice, the basketball coach for both the boys and girls teams at Greenbrier East High School, emphasized the important role coaches play in the community and how they must be involved in engaging West Virginia youth to turn the state around.

Justice advocated for increased citizen participation to change the Mountain State for the better. He made it clear that he wants to hear from the community leaders who are with our kids every day and discuss how we can make a change.

“This is a targeted effort to get everyday citizens involved in helping to change West Virginia,” said businessman and candidate for Governor Jim Justice. “I want to bring coaches together so that I can hear directly from them what we are missing in our efforts to take care of our young people. I am not a politician, but it is obvious to me that there needs to be increased citizen involvement because we can’t wait any longer for politicians to get their act together.”

Both Nehlen and Pruett highlighted the passion and commitment Justice has for his student-athletes and the state. The football legends praised Justice for his generous support of WVU and Marshall, and his work helping West Virginia youth over the years.

Coach Don Nehlen, a lifelong Republican, said, “Jim doesn’t have to coach basketball at Greenbrier East, but he does it because of his passion and commitment to helping the community and his players. He  knows how to work with others and bring folks together to achieve a common goal. I know that as governor Jim will continue his great work to improve this state that we love so much.”

“Jim has a big heart, and I can tell you that he is always trying to do the right thing for the people of our state,” said Coach Bob Pruett. “I have watched Jim do extraordinary things for West Virginia, including coaching and mentoring his student-athletes, saving The Greenbrier, bringing the PGA tour here, and attracting professional sports teams to West Virginia. I have been equally impressed by his remarkable support of both West Virginia University and Marshall University over the years.”

The bolded portions of the statement were done by the campaign, not by me. Obviously lot’s of praise for Justice in the press release. But there’s one thing missing – the word Democrat.

The $80,000 Pension Club…2.0

August 15, 2015 by joelebert

Two years ago, the Daily Mail’s Zack Harold obtained a list of West Virginia pension system recipients who collected more than $80,000 in benefits a year. The project, which Zack dubbed the $80,000 Pension Club, included a database with the names and total amount every single person collecting a pension in West Virginia over the threshold.

This summer, Sam Speciale and I decided to update Harold’s initial project. So, we once again filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the West Virginia Consolidated Public Retirement Board.

The database below is what we received from the board – although not exactly because they gave us some ugly documents we had to clean up.

Instead of exactly replicating Zack’s work, Sam and I also asked for the benefit start dates and the number of years an individual contributed to the retirement system. These two additions will provide a few additional insights that you might find interesting while exploring the pension database.

For example, despite contributing for just 7 and 8 years, Robert Claus and Jeffrey Leach, respectively, are among the top 15 pension recipients in the state.  Both men are annually taking in over $113,000 from the State Troopers retirement system.

Another insight we discovered by asking for the benefit start date was this little nugget: About 57 percent of the total people who currently receive more than $80,000 in pension benefits each year have joined the list since 2009.

There are some minor things you should know about the database.

1) It is sortable by category. So if you want to see it in alphabetical order, just press on the button at the top of the list under the first or last name. If you want to do it by amount, pension system, or benefit start date, click the button at the top of the list.

2) This list is as of August 5, 2015. Other people will undoubtedly retire between now and the end of the year but the list is accurate as of that date.

3) Since the Daily Mail’s initial 2013 request, 67 more people are receiving benefits of $80,000 or more. In 2013, there were 98 members of the $80k pension club – today, there are 165.

In terms of sheer monetary totals, those receiving $80,000 or more amassed $9.2 million in 2013.

This year, the $80,000 pension club members totaled $15.5 million.

It is also worth noting some of the changes between the 2013 list and the 2015 one.

For example: in 2013, judges had the most number of recipients in the $80k club. But today, judges fell to number three and were overtaken by state troopers and teachers.

You should also note one man – Robert Rothlisberger – is categorized as Public Employee NS. Sam discovered that’s because recipients in the Public Employees Retirement System are separated into two categories — state employees and non-state employees. State employees, as their name would suggest, worked for the state of West Virginia. Non-state employees are those who worked for a city, county commission or any other local government agency not affiliated with the state. There is only one non-state employee drawing more than $80,000 in annual benefits — and that’s Rothlisberger, who has received $87,061 each year since 2011.

Also notable is that C. Reeves Taylor does not have an amount in the contributing years. We are trying to figure out why and have requested this information with the pension board. Once we get this information, we will update the database.

That’s all for now – oh and we will permanently place the database on the $80,000 Pension Club page, which you can find in the upper right hand corner of this blog.


2016 election guide maps

August 5, 2015 by joelebert

The two maps below have been created to go along with our 2016 election guide.

The outlines are based on every House of Delegates and state Senate district. All you have to do is click on a district and then you will see who the incumbent candidate is, what their 2016 intentions are and if there are any challengers.

As is the case with the 2016 election guide, all the information included in these maps is based off of the Secretary of State’s pre-candidacy filings. The maps will be updated in conjunction with the spreadsheet version of the election guide.

On the upper left side of the map, there is a little box you can click that will generate a dropdown menu. If you click on one of the districts you will be brought directly to the district on the map. To remove the dropdown menu, click the up arrow on the bottom of the menu.

As usual, if there are any mistakes or suggestions you have to add onto these maps, feel free to email me at joel.ebert@dailymailwv.com

These maps will permanently live on the 2016 election guide page of this blog, which you can find in the upper right corner below the search box.

House of Delegates:

State Senate:

More on West Virginia’s concealed carry permits

August 3, 2015 by joelebert

In conjunction with my Sunday Gazette-Mail story on concealed carry permits, here are a few items that will help you explore West Virginia’s concealed gun permit data bit more.

The following map will allow you to see where a given county lies in terms of the percent of its total population with a concealed carry permit, as of Dec. 31, 2014.

Below is a document that ranks the counties based on the percent of concealed carry permit holders.

The population totals in both documents are based off of 2014 population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Also to note – the 2015 totals are only from Jan. 1 to March 31.

All the gun permit information used for the above graphic and the chart below was obtained from the West Virginia State Police via a Freedom of Information Act request.


Manchin joins 49 Republicans seeking investigation of Planned Parenthood

July 22, 2015 by joelebert

According to a story posted this afternoon by The Hill, Joe Manchin is the sole U.S. Senate Democrat to join Republicans in calling for an investigation into Planned Parenthood.

The story by Jordain Carney notes:

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) is calling on the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to comply with congressional investigations into Planned Parenthood in the wake of two secretly-recorded videos.

Manchin joined 49 Republican colleagues on a letter Wednesday to HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell that called on her department to “fully cooperate” with the investigations.
You can read Carney’s entire story here.
Here is the letter:

Maloney responds to JIC Justice Davis decision

July 22, 2015 by joelebert

Former Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Maloney sent the following statement out in response to yesterday’s decision by the Judicial Investigation Commission of West Virginia, regarding the now dismissed complaint against Justice Robin Davis:

Just yesterday during my morning ride I stopped and posted on Facebook a telling quote from a statue along the trail:

“Rest here. Reflect here. Honor all those who helped us reach this point. Just don’t stay too long. Because there are many miles ahead.”

Little did I know that within hours a supposedly confidential ethics decision would be blasted out. One thing is clear, there are obviously still a different set of rules for the elitist class of career politicians who have grown to accept corruption and unethical actions as the norm in West Virginia.  As we said many times on the campaign trail for Governor in 2011 and 2012 “Wisdom doesn’t reside under that Golden Dome in Charleston, it resides in all of you – the citizens of West Virginia”

A majority of West Virginians believe that Justice Davis should have disclosed the Learjet transaction. There is something not right with selling a Learjet to a person with a huge case pending before the court, while running for re-election, then accepting campaign contributions from the same individual and making the choice not to disclose it. The fact that a commission appointed by the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia, which it is responsible for overseeing, found in Justice Davis’ favor means nothing – It’s still wrong!. The West Virginia Code of Judicial Conduct very clearly states that ‘ A judge shall avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all of the judge’s activities.”

This whole escapade screams for one thing – Serious changes to the ethics laws in West Virginia.  Faced with preposterous decisions such as these, most people would just pack their bags and leave. That seems to be the goal and the facts show it’s working.  In 2020 West Virginia will lose another Congressional seat as it continues to lead the nation in population decline. The culture of corruption must end to reverse this spiraling trend and truly allow for a brighter future.

Things never work out exactly as planned but they get better with time if you do the right thing. We continue to take the high road and fight for what’s right, knowing that our maker will see to it that we and above all the citizens of West Virginia WILL win in the end!


Governor Tomblin announces truancy diversion effort

July 22, 2015 by joelebert

From a press release:

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin today announced the launch of the Truancy Diversion Initiative, part of the governor’s comprehensive juvenile justice reform in West Virginia. The governor introduced the proposal as part of his 2015 State of the State address in January and signed Senate Bill 393 into law April 2, 2015.

“Since becoming governor, I have worked hard to ensure our students have access to a world-class education and the increased opportunities that are critical for long-term success,” Gov. Tomblin said. “This new initiative will help provide early intervention services to those children who need them most, keeping them in school and providing them with the individualized attention they need to get back on track and get the education they need to take advantage of the growing opportunities we are creating in the Mountain State.”

Through a partnership with the West Virginia Department of Education, applications are now available for county boards of education to apply for funding for a truancy diversion specialist to serve local students. As outlined in Senate Bill 393, truancy diversion specialists will serve all 55 counties to work cooperatively with school teachers and staff, the Circuit Court, school districts, and law enforcement officials to redirect at-risk youth toward positive school attendance and engagement.

“Several years ago, the Court began to contract with individual county boards of education to provide school-based probation officers to put a dent in the truancy rate,” West Virginia Supreme Court Chief Justice Margaret Workman said. “This strategy has been dramatically effective in a number of counties. So we’re very pleased that the Governor and the Legislature worked together to expand this practice into all of the counties, and we at the Court are eager to continue to do our part to keep kids in school.”

As part of the initiative, diversion specialists will also work with community-based youth reporting centers to help ensure a smooth transition for students between school and the youth reporting center and work to ensure positive relationships between parents, students, teachers and staff.

“Regular student attendance is critical to success in the classroom and improving the graduation rate,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Michael Martirano said. “I commend Governor Tomblin’s leadership on Senate Bill 393, which will help to reduce truancy in our schools and reduce suspension and juvenile incarceration rates, ultimately ensuring a world-class education for all students.”

Delegate Moffatt asks Gov. for lowered flags

July 21, 2015 by joelebert

From a press release sent out this morning:

Delegate Michel G. Moffatt (R-Putnam) is calling on Governor Tomblin to order all state flags at state-owned facilities to be lowered at half-staff in honor of the six fallen soldiers who were tragically killed in Chattanooga, Tennessee on July 16.  He is also asking that members of the National Guard to be armed for self-protection.   In response to this tragedy, several states have ordered their flags to be flown at half-staff and have also taken extra security precautions that include allowing their Guardsman to be armed.  

Here is Moffatt’s letter to the governor:

Download (PDF, 223KB)

Waiting to hear back from the governor’s staff to see what his thoughts are about this. Will update as soon as I get word back.

Daily Mail’s 2016 West Virginia election guide

July 17, 2015 by joelebert

May 10, 2016 – West Virginia’s political junkies may have that date dotted on their iPhones or circled on their calendars but most other people probably don’t.

So why would anyone care about something 298 days from today?

Because its primary Election Day, of course.

Although it is hardly right around the corner, the Daily Mail has begun tracking the basics of who is running for what.

This is nothing particularly difficult – as anyone can find this information on the Secretary of State’s website under the pre-candidacy filings.

But the unfortunate part of using the SoS’s website is it is simply a location to see every single person who has expressed their 2016 intentions. It does not offer a quick and easy way to see who is running against one another, who is leaving office and who hasn’t filed yet.

For that reason, the Daily Mail has compiled this information in an easy-to-use online spreadsheet so you can keep track of the races you may be interested in.

Want to know who has filed pre-candidacy papers for the seat Sen. Herb Snyder is exiting? You can quickly find the answer on our spreadsheet.

There are a few things to note – first, on the Senate page it is really easy to show who is running against each other because there is one senator for each district. But in the House page, things get a bit messy because multiple people represent a district. So if you are looking at who is running to represent the 36th District, you will see three names in the cell across from Nancy Peoples Guthrie. The three hopefuls are not specifically running against Guthrie, as opposed to Larry Rowe and Brad White. They are simply running in the district.

Another thing to note – some of the possible candidates filed their pre-candidcay papers a long time ago. Tyler Cloud Dixon and Phil Hudok, for example filed their candidacy papers in 2013.

Hudok sought the U.S. Senate in the 2014 primary election. He came in last place in the 5-way race, receiving just 2,566 out of 453,659 total votes. Shelley Moore Capito won with 281,820 votes.

All that being said, it is not a certain whether all the people who filed pre-candidacy papers will actually be candidates. So take these filings for what they are.

Filing pre-candidacy papers allows a person to raise and spend money. Nothing more. Nothing less.

And now to some interesting things you can see from the document:

  • As of today, there are 4 Democrats, 3 Republicans, 2 independents, 1 Constitution Party and 1 Libertarian and 1 candidate with no affiliation who have filed pre-candidacy papers for governor.
  • There is one West Virginian who has filed to run for U.S. President. Her name is O. Hope Jerio, of Elkins.  According to articles in the Intermountain, Jerio ran for mayor of Elkins in 2009. Earlier this year, Jerio was “admonished by a judge for her repeated outbursts during a hearing regarding her competency to stand trial,” the newspaper reported. Jerio was charged with one felony count of violating a protective order, third or subsequent offense.
  • A look inside the statehouse candidates reveals 16 incumbent Democrats and 12 Republicans have yet to decide what office they are running for. (To see this, look at the undeclared tab).
  • On the House side, 50 incumbent candidates have yet to file any pre-paperwork, as of this writing. In the Senate, only 3 incumbent candidates have not filed paperwork yet.

This is an ongoing project that we will work to update and further develop each week between now and the primary election. If there is anything you would like to see added to this document or any other suggestions you may have, feel free to email me at joel.ebert@dailymailwv.com

And now without further ado, here is the Daily Mail’s 2016 West Virginia Election guide:





Dept of Commerce spokesperson issues statement on PW

July 15, 2015 by joelebert

The following statement is from Chelsea Ruby, spokesperson for the state Department of Commerce, who is handling press on the prevailing wage-WorkForce West Virginia issue.

To the best of the agency’s belief and understanding, the documents posted online within hours of the subpoena and the second batch of documents delivered to the Joint Committee were reflective of what was provided in response to the initial request. The information in question has now been given to all interested parties and made available to the public. WorkForce will continue to enforce the law passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor.