Upper Big Branch ‘foreman’ used forged license

December 13, 2010 by Ken Ward Jr.

We broke a story in the Sunday Gazette-Mail about how a worker at Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch somehow managed to use a forged foreman’s license for nearly two years — and conduct more than 220 safety examinations at the mine between January 2008 and August 2009.

The story is posted here. And this morning, we’ve also added to our Web site documents we obtained under the Freedom of Information Act that detail a bit about the case of Massey worker Thomas Harrah.

And we’re also posting the audio of the hearing in which Harrah testifies about his actions:

It’s worth remembering that this is not the first story to come out about questions about mine foremen at Upper Big Branch. We published a story in late September about three Upper Big Branch mine managers who were cited individually by state inspectors for alleged safety violations.

Stay tuned …

8 Responses to “Upper Big Branch ‘foreman’ used forged license”

  1. rhmooney3 says:

    If a non-certified person certifies a required safety record, it’s that a violation?

    Has Massey Energy been cited — by both the state and MSNA –for all these violations? (The company is responsible to insure the certifier is certified.)

  2. Monty says:

    I listened to the hearing – thank you, Ken,for posting the audio file – and was struck by the other-worldly tone of the man’s “testimony.” I use that word in quotes deliberately. Here was a guy that, yes, knew he was caught, but was going to turn his back on the only good-paying job he’d known without even a wimper? I just can’t wrap my head around that thought, because the only way it makes sense, to me, is if some outside force was at play in this, some other factor was making him behave in this rambling, diffident way, knowing that the board could ban him for life from ever mining in the state of West Virginia again.

    The very rare individual has the moral grace and inner peace to go to the chopping block willingly and unflinchingly. Perhaps Thomas Harrah was one of those. Or, perhaps, another factor was in play here.

  3. Ellen - MSHN says:

    He can still work in Kentucky or Virginia or Pennsylvania or Indiana or Illinois or Alabama or Kansas or Missouri or Utah or Wyoming or Montana or South Dakota…

  4. Ernie says:

    Ellen, because of the state’s recipicocity with these states, your statement has no basis in fact. If the gentleman has his miner’s certificate revoked in this state, he cannot be a miner in another state as a certified experienced miner.

  5. Ellen - MSHN says:

    Not all states have the same miner certification requirements. Ky., Va., and W.Va. have, some recpicocity depending upon the job. For instance, Ky. will recognize certified mine foremen and electricians from W.Va., and if they lost their papers in W.Va., then they can have their certification pulled in Ky. However, I know for a fact that Wyoming for instance, has no such requirment or restriction. If a mine examiner loses his or her certification in W.Va., that person may move to Wyom., take Wyoming’s test and become certified as an examiner there. It does not matter that they lost their certification in another state, according to the Wyo. program director, Terry Adcock. From what I can tell, Pa. does not ask if a person has lost their certification in another state. I’ll get back with a list…

  6. Monty says:

    There’s just something about this whole … episode … that causes me to believe another factor was at play here, something that caused this person to go before the board, without legal representation, with a “Let’s get this over with” attitude, and not seeming to care about the outcome one way or the other. It just doesn’t ring true.

  7. rhmooney3 says:

    Again, it’s not about the person but about the company that did not verify his being licensed — the company has liability.

    That action is being taken against the person but not the company is…

    Recently, in Kentucky, falsified water monitoring reports had been filed by at least several coal mining companies. Both the mining companies and the persons signing those fraudulant reports are liable, not just the signors.

  8. Bob says:

    I would have to agree that the company does bear liability for the criminal actions of this man because he was acting as an “agent” of that company in the performance of his duties.
    I am not an attorney, but this man should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and whomever was responsible for checking his credentials, which should be a minimal standard, should also be prosecuted for criminal negligence.
    I may a defender of the industry but I am definitely not a defender of criminal behavior. There is no excuse.

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