WV Ethics Commission discusses, delays action on lawmakers' mail - WBOY - Clarksburg, Morgantown: News, Sports, Weather

WV Ethics Commission discusses, delays action on lawmakers' mailing question

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The West Virginia Ethics Commission discussed at the July 10 board meeting the mailing of letters by state legislators, but put off any action on the issue until its next meeting.

Commissioner Michael Greer said he would not be in favor of creating new state code that could allow legislators to send more mail to their constituents.

One of the commissioners at the meeting let slip the name of the delegate who brought up the issue of lawmakers' mailing privileges, explaining later it was a slip of the tongue and “human error.” However, it is under the confidentiality rule of the ethics act to not identity the person.

The delegate in question, when contacted by The State Journal, did not wish to provide comment on the matter — only to say he would wait for the story to "unfold" with the rest of the state. 

Greer said in his past experience as a delegate, some lawmakers were using their "franking," or mailing privileges more than others. 

Commissioner Betty Ireland, former Secretary of State, said she agreed with Greer's position for the most part.

“You’re saying every time a legislator sends out a letter, it is using the prestige of your office for your product gain,” Ireland asked. “If you go and buy a list from your state chair that gives you only those Republicans that voted three out of the last four elections, you can’t do that.

“You can send the letters out, but if you specifically target a group of voters during an election season then it is a violation of the ethics code,” Ireland added.

Newly appointed permanent chairperson, Commissioner Robert Wolfe, said he wanted to table the opinion until group members could explain how the mailings would not be used in a campaign-like way.

“Information for their constituents of what they’re doing; to me, I think we would have to take that on an individual case,” Wolfe said.

Action on the opinion was delayed for the next meeting.

Rebecca Stepto, interim executive director of the ethics commission, said as one of her first tasks she must address complaints about lawmakers' improper spending.

“There’s no way around it, I have the ethics act and it requires certain things to happen in certain time periods,” Stepto said. “I have to follow the statute first.”

Stepto said, in her preliminary findings, some state money was not being used properly.

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