The West Virginia Senate Finance Committee hired a former state official who paid out $10,000 as the result of a 2015 ethics investigation as its legal counsel.
Robin Capehart, the former Secretary of Tax and Revenue under Gov. Cecil Underwood and former West Liberty University president, will join the staff, according to a news release.
Both Senate President Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, and newly appointed Senate Finance Chairman Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, issued supportive statements in the release.
In June 2015, Capehart entered into a conciliation agreement with the West Virginia Ethics Commission. He admitted to one of 13 charges filed against him, all centered around using employees and resources of West Liberty University, while he served as its president, to bolster his private film company.
“I admit and acknowledge that I violated the West Virginia Governmental Ethics Act by soliciting private business from a subordinate public employee whom I had the authority to direct, supervise and control, in violation of West Virginia Code,” Capehart wrote and signed in the agreement. “In furtherance of the foregoing, I acknowledge and admit that I solicited Kristin Seibert, an employee of West Liberty University to be the manager of Flyover Films, LLC, an entity organized and owned by me, and to serve as executive producer of films for that entity.”
The payment comprised of a $5,000 fine, a $5,000 reimbursement to the Ethics Commission for costs incurred, and a public reprimand for soliciting the business of a subordinate.
The agreement does n
ot address the veracity of the 12 other charges filed against him, including using university staff and resources to promote a film his company produced and using state money to purchase gas, hotels and vehicle rentals while promoting the film.
The Associated Press reported in March 2015 that the West Liberty University faculty senate voted no confidence in Capehart in the wake of the allegations. Later that month, Capehart resigned from his position with the university.
Capehart, through a spokeswoman for the Senate, declined an interview request for this report.
Defending the hire, Carmichael said Capehart’s resume is stacked full of experience and qualifications in finance and education — the largest chunk of the state’s annual spending. Given his history, Carmichael said Capehart will be able to hit the ground running.
While interviewing Capehart for the job, Carmichael said they touched on the allegations and eventual confession.
“We talked about it briefly, I interviewed him on the phone, and I’ve known Rob for a long time, and I asked him, ‘Are there pending or unresolved issues of which I need to be aware that would impact your performance and that kind of thing?’ He said these things have been resolved, they’ve been resolved and there’s no further issues relating to that,” Carmichael said.
He added that everybody errs from time to time, and Capehart paid his fine and settled the outstanding allegations. Additionally, he said the contributions Capehart can make to the state should be appropriately valued.
“I’m troubled anytime there is an ethical allegation or in this case, it sounds like a confession, but hopefully he learned from these things and we move forward,” he said.