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Casey fuming that Justice blamed wife’s politics for unexpected firing

Gazette-Mail file photo Former chief of staff Nick Casey reflects on Gov. Jim Justice’s first 100 days in office. Casey was fired after Justice flipped to the Republican Party earlier this month.

Ousted gubernatorial chief of staff Nick Casey said he was flabbergasted when Gov. Jim Justice fired him less than two weeks after asking him to stay in the administration despite Justice’s flip to the Republican Party, but said he is furious that Justice blamed his wife, Mary, for the change of heart.

“I think he must have been medicated to say that,” Casey said Tuesday. “He pulled that out of his nose to say that.”

In a news conference Monday, Justice said Casey agreed to stay on after the governor’s party flip, but then, according to Justice, confided, “I’m married to a beautiful little Italian girl that is a Democrat through and through, and the pictures we have in our house are of Jesus Christ, John F. Kennedy, and Franklin Roosevelt.”

Justice told reporters he knew then that Casey wasn’t going to work out, “Not because of me, but because it was going to be tough on Nick.”

Casey said Tuesday that his wife once had a conversation with Justice about growing up in an Italian Catholic family in Logan County, with pictures of John F. Kennedy, Franklin D. Roosevelt and the pope on the walls of her childhood home.

“Somehow, he conflated these conversations and stories, and determined somehow that he was doing me a favor to let me go because he had flipped to Republican,” Casey said.

“It’s astounding to me he would use that conversation to make it that somehow he was doing her and me a favor,” Casey said. “It really, really agitates me that he would do that with any member of my family, especially my wife of 42 years.”

Casey, who served as state Democratic Party chairman from 2004 to 2010, said his wife has never held any position in the party.

He said his wife is “substantially put out” with Justice’s comments, adding that her actual response would not be publishable.

After changing parties, Casey said Justice told him that, “He wasn’t going to let the Republicans get into his head about getting rid of staff,” but said that apparently is what happened.

“He flipped. He changed his position. I didn’t,” Casey said. “I understand I work for him. He doesn’t need a reason to tell me to get lost.”

Casey said Tuesday he’s now concerned that Justice will clean house, getting rid of aides with any ties to the Democratic Party –- a move Casey said would cripple the governor’s office by eliminating staffers with experience and expertise in the day-to-day operations of state government.

Casey said all this comes at a critical time for the Justice administration, with an ongoing investigation into why multiple state agencies and colleges missed deadlines for submitting financial audits, with revamping of state procurement and personnel procedures underway, and with the Oct. 7 referendum on the “2017 Roads to Prosperity” amendment to authorize the sale of up to $1.6 billion of road bonds fast approaching.

Casey said the governor’s office is in charge of organizing a campaign to promote passage of the bond amendment, with plans to work with contractors, labor, and business groups.

“All that’s in limbo,” Casey said. “We had a whole plan laid out for him, with road trips and everything.”

Justice press secretary Grant Herring, who resigned after Justice’s flip to the GOP, was heading up the road bond campaign, Casey said.

Casey, who said he had never been fired from a job before, said Tuesday he is undecided about his future.

“Right now, I’m just in the midst of getting my wits about me,” he said.

Prior to joining the Justice administration, Casey was a lawyer with the Charleston firm of Lewis, Glasser, Casey and Rollins, and said Tuesday that returning to the firm is an option.

“I’m very confident we can figure out how to make that work,” he said.

Reach Phil Kabler at philk@wvgazettemail.com, 304 348-1220, or follow @PhilKabler on Twitter.

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