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Statehouse beat: A curse on Capitol hill

CHARLESTON W.Va. -- Some weeks back, I noted how the convenience of living in a house across the street from the Capitol Complex had become something of a curse for former Attorney General Darrell McGraw and former state Superintendent of Schools Jorea Marple.Perhaps for not much longer, however, since the house at 18 California Ave. is up for sale.According to the sign, the sale is being brokered by the McGraw Law Office in Pineville.That's the law practice of McGraw's nephew, former Wyoming County delegate Warren R. McGraw II.On numerous calls to the office last week, I was told the assistant handling inquiries about the house was out of the office (and, on Friday, the office was closed).Although previous incarnations of the Capitol Complex master plan (the most current plan was completed in 2010 but is still not public record, since the governor's office has yet to sign off on it) call for expansion of the campus east across California Avenue to Michigan Avenue, Administration spokeswoman Diane Holley-Brown said there have been no formal discussions about the state buying the property (or 14 California Ave., located adjacent to the McGraw house, which is also on the market).If it did buy the properties, the state would own most of the property along California Avenue from Quarrier Street nearly to Kanawha Boulevard.About eight or 10 years ago, the state brought three properties on California Avenue and, in 2005, tore the houses down and graveled the lot to provide temporary parking.Coincidentally, before Administration officials had decided what agency or agencies would be assigned space to the lot (these days, they're mostly used by legislative staffers), McGraw decreed that the lot -- directly across from the attorney general's offices in the Capitol -- was to be parking for his staff and, at one point, allegedly blocked in a car for "illegally" parking there. Turned out, it was a legislative staffer who was assigned the space because respiratory problems made it difficult for her to walk long distances. ***By the way, somebody probably could have figured out, for less than the nearly $900,000 cost for the current master plan, that if the Capitol Complex is to expand, the only viable direction is to the east, since geography prevents expansion north or south, and the busy four-lane Greenbrier Street makes campus growth to the west unworkable.***Speaking of McGraw, when Patrick Morrisey took office as attorney general, he promised a "made-for-TV" spectacular to dispose of any remaining taxpayer-funded self-promotional trinkets McGraw left behind.Since then, that "event" -- which serves no purpose other than to attempt to further embarrass McGraw -- has been indefinitely postponed.
When Morrisey stuck his head in the press room recently, I called him on it -- suggesting that, based on auditor's records, McGraw's office had not made any significant purchases of trinkets or giveaway items since 2004, when the purchase of more than $100,000 worth of such items that year was a campaign issue in challenger Dan Greear's campaign.
I told Morrisey I suspected he was having trouble finding enough trinkets to stage even a small fire, let alone a bonfire, and he stammered without giving an answer.Perhaps Morrisey will borrow a page from George W. Bush, when he was unable to find Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction.***Speaking of Morrisey, one of the unintended consequences of the transition is that there is a huge backlog of state contracts waiting to be approved by the attorney general's office.Under state purchasing law, contracts for $25,000 or more have to be approved as to form by the attorney general's office, to verify that the contracts are properly signed and documented, and that any terms or conditions in the contract comply with state law.The deputy attorney general who oversaw state contracts, Dawn Warfield, left the attorney general's office shortly after the November election.
According to the state Purchasing Bulletin, the last state contract approved was back on Dec. 28.**Bray Cary's West Virginia Media has a reputation for paying notoriously low salaries, which may explain why Steven Allen Adams left WOWK-TV, where I think he was a producer/photographer, to become the "constituent outreach specialist" for the state Senate.Adams' salary is $28,500 -- or $1,500 a year less than the Senate paid Tim Ward, the previous constituent outreach specialist.***Finally, a sharp-eyed reader pointed out that, in the "On the Town" pictures from the gubernatorial inaugural ball, there is an object of some sort in the jacket pocket of Delegate Danny Wells' tuxedo.After keen observation, magnification, and consultation with those whose eyes are in better working order than mine, the consensus is that it's a bottle of Corona beer.(At least it's not jumbo shrimp, which is a story for another column.)Reach Phil Kabler at or 304-348-1220.
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