Gov. Jim Justice signed a bill Tuesday that will expand state ethics laws, ostensibly to include an unpaid member of his senior staff who serves as a “citizen volunteer.”
Bray Cary currently operates in Justice’s office as an adviser, sitting in on meetings with legislative leaders and state officials, and assisting in communications. He also sits on the board of directors of EQT Corp., a natural gas driller.
In 2016, EQT paid Cary more than $325,000 in cash and shares, according to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. He directly owns more than 28,000 shares in the company and indirectly owns another 14,377. His board position and financial stake prompted concerns of a potential conflict of interest.
The Ethics Act generally prevents state employees and public officials from using their public offices for private gain. It also requires certain senior state employees and public officials to submit financial disclosures to the state Ethics Commission.
Under current law, Cary is not required to submit a financial disclosure. However, he volunteered one to the Ethics Commission in January, following media scrutiny from different outlets.
In an interview the day before the Legislature passed the bill, Cary said he supports it in principle and that all state officials should be subject to the Ethics Act.
Public records requests filed with the Governor’s Office show Cary has assisted Justice’s administration in different policy areas and helps coordinate media requests. Cary also sits in on media interviews with the governor.
Cary applied for an access card to the Capitol complex in October. The Gazette-Mail first reported on Cary’s position in December, before House Speaker Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha, and House Minority Leader Tim Miley, D-Harrison, said they would co-sponsor legislation tailored with Cary in mind.
Miley sponsored the bill, and Armstead and a host of other legislative leaders signed on as co-sponsors.