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Ethics Commission OKs licensing board member teaching course for licensees

A member of a state professional licensing board may be paid to teach a continuing education course required for licensees to renew their licenses, the state Ethics Commission determined Thursday.

Commissioners concluded it would not violate the state ethics law’s prohibition on using public office for private gain for the individual to teach a class on West Virginia law that licensees must pass every four years in order to renew their state licenses.

In the advisory opinion, the commission noted the licensing board has a full-time executive director and staff, and that the staff — not the board members — approve instructors for the 150 continuing education courses available to licensees.

Although advisory opinions are confidential, the facts of the request are consistent with requirements of the Real Estate Appraiser Licensing Board. Since 2015, licensed real estate appraisers have been required to successfully complete a three-hour continuing education class on West Virginia law every four years.

The board member is one of only two providers certified by board staff to teach the course, for which licensees pay a fee to attend, according to the advisory opinion.

Commissioner Larry Tweel, a Huntington lawyer, questioned whether the individual could use his position as a member of the licensing board to encourage licensees to take his course.

As Commission Chairman Robert Wolfe paraphrased, “I’m on the licensing board — take the class from me.”

“It just is a close call for me,” Tweel said.

Also Thursday, the commission:

  • Approved a conciliation agreement for a Shepherd University police officer who used his police cruiser to pick his son up from elementary school on days when his wife could not do so.

In the agreement, Officer John D. Brown indicated that he had used the cruiser to drive his son home from school on approximately 20 occasions, acknowledging that personal use of the cruiser is not permitted under university policy.

As part of the agreement, Brown will pay a $300 fine, reimburse the university $145 for the estimated cost of the personal travel, and will complete an ethics training course.

  • Authorized the Hardy County Sheriff’s Department to contract with a company owned by one of its deputies to install emergency lights and sirens on two newly purchased cruisers.

According to the request, the department had purchased the equipment from a separate vendor, who had quoted a price of $5,996 for installation, but did not follow up with the department.

The department published a request for bids for installation, and the sole bidder was TJM Enterprises, owned by Deputy Tommie McClausley II, for $3,500.

This is the third time the commission has addressed requests from the sheriff’s department to do business with TJM. In 2016, it approved the purchase and installation of cruiser light bars from TJM, but in 2017, denied awarding an installation contract to TJM, even though it was the low bidder, citing multiple bidders for that contract.

  • Executive Director Rebecca Stepto said the commission has received 54 verified complaints of possible ethics violations so far this calendar year. That’s up from 40 complaints at the same point in 2018, and 50 in 2017.

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

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Funerals for Thursday, August 22, 2019

Booth, Paul - 2 p.m., Bartlett-Nichols Funeral Home, St. Albans.

Cummings, David - 1 p.m., Waybright Funeral Home, Ripley.

Gregor, Kathy - 5 p.m., Good Shepherd Mortuary, South Charleston.

Lore, Madge - 11 a.m., Cunningham Memorial Park, St. Albans.

Sanders, Wetzel - 2 p.m., McGhee-Handley Funeral Home, West Hamlin.

Stalnaker, Lillian - 11 a.m., Little Kanawha Memorial Gardens, Flatwoods.