West Virginia Secretary of State candidate Natalie Tennant won’t retract statements or stop airing a commercial in which she says one of Secretary of State Mac Warner’s employees hosts a radio show on taxpayers’ time, she said Thursday.
The Secretary of State’s General Counsel, Deak Kersey, sent a cease and desist letter to Tennant on Oct. 13, asking her campaign to stop airing a commercial with a statement about the employee and to stop talking about it altogether.
Tennant’s campaign provided a copy of the cease and desist letter as well as her written response to Kersey to local media Thursday.
In his letter, Kersey cites a video released by Tennant’s campaign that states Warner “allows a full-time employee to work on state time as a radio host,” and the campaign also released written statements with a similar statements.
Kersey included a copy of the time card of the employee in question, Dave Gilpin, who has worked as a member of the Secretary of State’s Field Services team and as a public outreach coordinator for the office’s One Stop Business Center, according to a 2019 news release on the Secretary of State’s website.
Gilpin hosts a show on WCHS radio from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m., according to communication between Tennant and Kersey.
Tennant, who served two terms as Secretary of State between 2009 and 2017, is the Democratic candidate against Republican Warner, who defeated Tennant in the 2016 election.
This isn’t the first campaign-related skirmish in which Warner or his affiliates have accused Tennant of wrongdoing.
Amid their campaigns in the summer of 2016, Warner filed a complaint with the West Virginia Ethics Commission against then-incumbent Tennant for including a pencil with her name on it in a packet prepared for students at an elementary school.
In August that year, the Ethics Commission sent Tennant a letter saying that after an investigation into the allegations, the Probable Cause Review Board had concluded there was no violation of the Ethics Act and dismissed the complaint, the Gazette-Mail reported.
In this latest encounter, Kersey says Gilpin worked out a contract with the Secretary of State’s Office that, among other things, keeps him from being on the state’s clock while he hosts his two-hour long daily radio show.
Tennant said Gilpin’s time card and the contract only indicate that he is permitted to leave his job with Secretary of State’s Office to host the show, which is what she claims in her statements.
She said the time cards show a normal business day in the Secretary of State’s Office is from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., and if Gilpin is hosting a radio show during those hours, he is doing so on state time.
She also said that Gilpin fails to disclose to his listeners that he is employed by Mac Warner, even when Warner was a guest on his show.
Kersey said no one from Tennant’s campaign reached out to the Secretary of State’s Office regarding Gilpin’s employment or how his time during regular business hours is spent as part of a Freedom of Information Act request, which Tennant said in her ad.
A surrogate for Tennant’s campaign filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Secretary of State’s Office in August seeking the time cards Kersey provided, Tennant said in her letter.
It was only after Tennant’s campaign began to air the commercial that they received the time cards along with the cease and desist letter, she said.
“Mr. Warner with purposeful and malicious intent has withheld the release of Mr. Gilpin’s time cards because he knew it would damage him politically,” Tennant said. “He only released them after the airing of my commercial that truthfully states the circumstances surrounding Mr. Gilpin’s preferential treatment.”