W.Va. Senate selection panel broke law, rejected candidate says

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A candidate passed over for one of three nominations to fill the 12th District Senate seat vacancy created when Sen. Joe Minard, D-Harrison, resigned to become state Senate clerk, says he believes the selection committee violated state law and procedures in making the nominations.Michael Queen, president of the Harrison County Board of Education and one of seven people to express interest in filling the vacancy, on Monday sent letters of protest regarding the nominating process to the secretary of state's office and to the Ethics Commission."There are rules of decency and rule of law that should always be adhered to," said Queen, a former legislator and lobbyist known for anti-gambling efforts and, most recently, for opposing efforts to remove a painting of Jesus from Bridgeport High School.Queen said he believes the eight-member nominating committee may have violated state open-meetings law by meeting last Thursday, one day after the meeting was first publicized.The open-meetings law requires five days' notice for meetings of public bodies, but it was not immediately clear whether political party executive committees are bound by the law.Queen also questions procedures used by the 12th Senatorial District Democratic Executive Committee to come up with the three nominees submitted to Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin.
Each member was given a ballot to select three nominees from among the seven candidates, and Queen said he believes at least one committee member cast three votes for the same individual.Jake Glance, spokesman for Secretary of State Natalie Tennant, said state law specifies that executive committees are to meet and select three nominees to fill legislative vacancies -- but otherwise sets no parameters for how those selections are to take place."If he thinks there's some kind of law that's been broken, he could file a lawsuit, and a judge would hear that -- not the secretary of state's office," Glance said of Queen's complaint.Queen said Monday he was considering retaining an attorney to keep Tomblin from filling the vacancy.Under the law, Tomblin has through Thursday to select one of the three nominees -- Delegates Tim Miley and Sam Cann, both D-Harrison, and Harrison County Commissioner Mike Romano -- to fill Minard's unexpired term.Reach Phil Kabler at philk@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1220.
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