Governor, or “King” Justice, as some call him, wants to jack up sales and other taxes and give taxpayers government handouts, while proposing to eliminate personal income taxes. While this might seem laudable at first glance, it is a smoke and mirrors game.
Our state has been severely hampered by unnecessary and burdensome, and unconstitutional mask mandates, business closure mandates and by limiting the capacity of businesses. Even today, Jefferson County WV high schools are closed this week due to bogus COVID 19 statistics. Children are at virtually zero risk from COVID 19. Staff are not at risk either. In fact, with proper treatment 99.9 % of those with COVID will recover. COVID 19 is much less fatal for children than the flu. Following this rationale, why did we not close schools periodically due to cases of the flu?
The best way to help our state is to remove unnecessary mandates. HB 2003 will require legislative review for any mandates over 60 days and has passed the WV House of Delegates unanimously. This bill needs to be brought to the floor of the Senate ASAP and amended to make it clear that the bill’s provisions apply to not only future mandates plus the current one. Mask mandates discourage business. And, of course, closing restaurants and making up random rules for their operation, as well as for other businesses’ operation, adversely affects businesses, including causing many small businesses to go out of business permanently. Yet Governor Justice does not want to deal with these core issues, but rather wants to distract us with other, peripheral issues.
So, Governor Justice, stop the social posturing BS. People will decide on their own whether or not they want to wear a mask. Children need to be in school. People need to interact in person without unnecessary and harmful government mandates. By the way, why can eighth grade students be in school, but not ninth grade students? What is the magical “scientific” formula behind that?
Specifically regarding the income tax proposal, many small businesses would not benefit in any case. Schedule C income is not included. Food grocery items will become taxable again, at 7.9%, after having just been removed from being taxable in 2013. Food had also been added and removed from being taxed in West Virginia previously in 1981 and then taxed again in 1989. Tax on food drives West Virginians to shop in neighboring states with no food tax.
Governor Justice should focus on helping West Virginians to exercise their God-given freedoms, and not on dubious plans that increase taxes on essential items like food purchased at grocery stores. Leave the income tax alone. There are many more pressing issues, like restoring our Constitutional freedoms and ensuring voting integrity.
There are seven bills dealing with vaccination choice that have been introduced in the WV House or Senate. All of them will provide some welcome relief from West Virginia’s authoritarian, one size fits all approach to immunizations.
As a start, I suggest you contact your senators in support of SB 406, and contact your delegate in support of HB 2881. Both remove the requirement to provide the harmful and unnecessary Hepatitus B vaccination to children before attending any West Virginia school, public or private. Typically, this vaccination is given to newborn babies. Mind you that the vaccination is for a sexually transmitted disease, and that this disease is nonexistent among those who are not having sexual intercourse or using IV drugs. HB 2881 is in the House Health and Human Resources Committee chaired by Jeffrey Pack.
HB 2728 clarifies that the commissioner of Public Health shall not expand compulsory immunization requirements for school children without explicit Legislative authority, including the chair of the Health Committee. Vaccination by administrative ruling added 11 to 13 doses of four vaccines to the West Virginia required vaccine schedule from 2008 to 2017. These vaccines alone have caused between 1740 to 17,400 serious adverse reactions requiring hospitalization and 290 to 2900 deaths in West Virginia. Current administrative rulings specify that all vaccines recommend by the ACIP panel are also recommended for West Virginia children. Furthermore, from 2008 to 2017 parents enrolling children in state licensed daycare were required to get HIB, pneumococcal (Prevnar), rotavirus and Hepatitus A vaccinations under penalty of law. These vaccinations were added by an administrative rule, were subsequently removed, but could be added again. This bill is in the House Education Committee, chaired by Joe Ellington.
HB 2783 grants a physician to grant a child a medical exemption from the required immunizations for entering a school or a state-regulated child care center. The position of Immunization Officer (added in 2015) is eliminated. This bill is in the House Health and Human Resources Committee, chaired by Jeffrey Pack.
Four Priorities for 2021 WV Legislative Session by Richard Urban
Protect our constitutional freedoms from encroachment by government mandates. Reform the Governor’s emergency powers authority, requiring the legislature to authorize extensions after 60 days. HB 2003 does this, but lacks clear language indicating that it applies to the current decrees of Governor Justice, not just future ones. It passed the House and is currently in the Senate, submitted to the Government Organization committee, chaired by Senator Maynard but they have not acted on it since receiving it February 22nd. HB 2014 specifies that emergency funds received from the Federal Government over $150 million must be appropriated by the legislature. It has passed the House and is currently in the Senate, submitted to the Finance committee chaired by Senator Eric Tarr. Action Steps: Contact our Senators to express support for both bills, and to request an amendment clarifying that HB 2003 applies to mandates currently in place. Also contact the chair of the respective committees to request that the bill be put on the agenda and passed out of the committee.
Protect the integrity of elections in West Virginia. Eliminate early voting. All voting will be on Election Day. Mail in voting should not be allowed at all, unless a citizen lives outside of the United States. That is what the great majority of other countries do. See this analysis of other countries: For those living outside the county, a Photo ID must be submitted with the request for a ballot. Eliminate using electronic voting machines. Use paper ballots. Do not use Clarity voting or any other third party reporting system. All counting and reporting must remain in the state.
In case of a challenge of the election results, failure to follow rules will automatically invalidate any contested election and a new election must be called i.e. if observers are not allowed to view ballot processing, or if ballots are destroyed or voting machine audit records erased. Use paper ballots to speed up voting and eliminate fraud. Tabulate votes, when not done manually, using two machines from different manufacturers. Results must match. Results will be recorded by each county and records will be retained on local servers and backed up by physical records of ballot counts. No third-party processing of election results is allowed.
Action step: Contact our legislators and let them know that you opposeHB 2814, sponsored by Jefferson County’s own Shepherdstown delegate, John Doyle. Tell our legislators that you want actual election reform that insures the integrity of our elections based on the above points.
Protect personal and religious freedom by eliminating vaccine mandates in West Virginia. This includes not allowing employers to mandate vaccines. See this fact sheet. Action step. Contact our legislators and let them know that you support SB 406 and SB 2881, which both remove the dangerous and unnecessary Hepatitus B vaccine from the vaccination schedule. We have gone literally decades without any progress on this issue. This is a modest step in the right direction Also let them know that you support HB 2728 to clarify that the commissioner of Public Health cannot add any immunizations not specifically authorized by the legislature and HB 2783 that allows a physician to write a medical exemption and eliminates the state Immunization Officer. See all of the health freedom bills here. Join the West Virginians for health freedom local group on Telegram to keep updated. Action Step: Contact House Education Chair Ellington to ask that HB 2728 be put on the agenda and why it is important to you. Contact House Health Chair Pack to tell him why you support HB 2783 and HB 2881 and ask that they both be put on the agenda.
Fund a road that exits to the south from Shannondale. Action Steps: Contact our legislators to ask and demand that such a road be funded, as it is a safety issue.
Mike Chapman: Hi. Good morning Mr. Urban and all your viewers. Thanks for having me on the show today. I really appreciate it. I am Mike Chapman. I’m the Democratic candidate for Sheriff. I’m probably a little different than the other candidates in the field. I was a reserve deputy for the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office for 10 years. I logged a lot of volunteer time in a police cruiser, doing by my best to make the citizens of Jefferson County safe. I served under three different Sheriffs. I’ve seen three different management styles of the organization. But my primary bread and butter, so to speak; throughout my life, I’ve been involved in information technology, business and finance. I’m an entrepreneur. I have owned a few small businesses over the years. Still do actually. I also own a farm out on the South end of Jefferson County. I think that basically, I’ll bring a unique perspective to the office. One, I do have the law enforcement experience. I do know what goes on inside the sheriff’s office. I do have some experience with all that. But the fact that I spent my entire career in the private sector, where in order to survive, you have to make things more efficient, more cost-effective and more customer service friendly.
Those are traits that you do not see in government, generally speaking. Not always. I don’t want to be too over dramatic with it, but a lot of times in law enforcement, we’re missing some of those things. So I think that once I get in office and I take a good hard look at everything and do a complete process analysis, complete needs assessment. We’ll find some opportunities to save the tax payers’ money, to be more responsible to the voters, to provide a higher level of customer service to people that have to react with the Sheriff’s office. And hopefully, just provide a total better service to the community while providing a better experience to the employees that work under me.
Richard: Can you clarify for myself and the viewers, what do the reserve officers do? Have you ever made an arrest, for instance? Or is it more like direct traffic or is it much more involved than that?
Mike Chapman: It sort of depends on the Sheriff, as to how much leeway he gives them. It also depends on the deputy that you might be working with at the time.
The reserves have an academy with about 200 hours of training. They are trained in Tasers, pepper spray, take down tactics, hand cuffing. They assist deputies with arrests. At least in my day they did. I assume they still do. I’ve rolled around on the floor with the subject trying to apprehend him along with the deputies. You’re very much involved. We transport prisoners. We take them to arraignment, take them to prison. We help process the paperwork on DUIs. We do direct traffic when there’s a catastrophic event, something that might down the highways. We’re extra manpower, extra eyes and ears in the community. A lot of the things we do, for example, I think a DUI arrest might take several hours to process. And that will also include a trip to the Regional Jail. So we’ll take some of those responsibilities off the deputy to get them back out on the street faster. So we’re sort of a force multiplier for the sheriff’s department.
Richard: And that’s a volunteer position, so you’re giving your time.
Mike Chapman: Yes. And I was involved in that early on. I was one of the people that helped form the organization and make it what it is today.
Richard: I notice about the training academy, they said it’s one of the, maybe the only one in the state or something.
Mike Chapman: A lot of the counties, local counties will send their officers here for training, because we do have such a great program. Ours is the model program for the state of West Virginia.
Richard: What do you think right now is the greatest issue for law enforcement in Jefferson County?
Mike Chapman: That’s a two-part question for me.
The biggest issue as we see it immediately is the opioid crisis. The opioid crisis drives so many other things. To an extent, human trafficking. To an extent, healthcare, because we’re seeing upticks in hepatitis, HIV, because of things that are going on in and around the opioid crisis. It’s destroying families, it’s creating despair. It’s definitely a problem. But what I see as an even potentially bigger problem looming on the horizon, if you’re following the news, the national rhetoric against police officers, de-funding the police. It’s driving down morale. We’re seeing in New York that there is a mass exodus of police officers from New York City. They’re retiring, they’re quitting.
Has it happened here yet? No. Are the guys and girls in law enforcement feeling it? Yes. A lot of them want out. And even before this, recruitment nationally for law enforcement officers is down by 60%. Used to advertise, you’d get 100 applications. Now you’re getting locally, you can get 10. It’s a problem, it’s a real problem. And so what scares me is, at some point, you’re going to lose your talented police officers because they’re educated, they’re smart, they can get another job. You’re going to lose them, and there’s nobody to back fill them because nobody wants to go in law enforcement. The younger generation didn’t like it, that idea, anyway, they’re not jumping in to fill the seats, and everybody else is, why would they subject themselves to what they’re hearing?
Richard: If I might ask the question. Okay, so I saw your post about the New York City Police Department and the patrol officer just quit. And I know hundreds of other officers have quit. The patrol officer, chief or director or whatever the title is. But the conundrum I see is, the Democratic Party and the Democratic Mayor De Blasio, he’s causing a lot of these issues and the whole kind of nexus between the Democratic Party and the defund the police movement. I know yourself you clearly indicate you’re not for that, but your party seems to be leaning that way. Can you address that?
Mike Chapman: I can’t speak for the Democratic Party. Listen, there’s a lot of labels that I used to define myself. I’m an American, I have to leave in the constitution 100%. I understand on the West Virginian. I’m a husband, I’m a brother, I’m a son, I’m an entrepreneur. Somewhere down on that list, way down is the label Democrat. I am a part of the party, but I don’t understand the national objective. I really don’t know what they’re trying to achieve by forcing his rhetoric on us. Because, I don’t know that many people that really want to de-fund the police. I have met a few locally, I have. But it seems to be very much a minority. Because what’s going to happen when you call 911 if there are no police officers to take the call? I don’t want to live in that world.
Richard: On the question of the big issue of the opioids, and you were mentioning on your website or Facebook about also a multi-pronged approach or reducing demand. I know specific you mentioned that. What could be done to reduce demand? How do you see that?
Mike Chapman: Sure, sure. First thing about opioids is that it knows no socio-economic boundaries. It can happen in any family. It just can. It doesn’t matter how much money you have or what race you are. What I see is part of the problem is the supply-demand equation. As long as there is a demand for the product, there’s going to be a supplier. We catch the supplier, we take down, we disrupt the network for a little while. Somebody else comes back in to fill it because there’s demand for it. So, we have to find a way, and I know that once you’re on opioids, it’s almost impossible to get off. It’s a life-long addiction. I know all that. But, the point is, if we do nothing, we’re not going to make any progress at all. So we have to do something. If we can only save 10% than that’s still worth it. But what we do now, we catch people with drugs or we catch people who have committed a small property crime to get drugs, and we put them in jail for a while. And we don’t really cure then, we don’t fix them, we don’t make anything better. We pay $50 a day for them to sit in jail, and then we release them back into the world, still addicted. Still, whatever the underlying problem that may have led to their addiction is still there, if it’s mental health, whatever it may be.
So what I would propose is that we try to fix them, as best we can. We try to help them, and we have a day report Center in town. It obviously has limited capacity. The treatment is funded largely through insurance companies. So it alleviates the jail bill. The insurance picks up the tab for the treatment. It’s expensive to send them through that, but the idea is first we treat the chemical addiction, then we try to treat the underlying condition that may have caused the chemical addiction, then we try to re-integrate them back into society. Give them some job training. There’s some employers locally that are hiring people out of that program. And try to make them productive citizens, again, give them a reason to be proud. The current system of just putting addicts in prison because they were holding drugs and they got caught and they go to jail, now they have a drug addiction and a criminal record, that’s not really helping them, so we have to do something different…
Richard: On another topic. We’ve had the governor’s mandates for COVID-19. Then we know that some businesses locally in Jefferson County, at least a couple, and others, and I know in Martinsburg, there’s a barber shop where the gentleman said he wasn’t shutting down. Presumably these could or have escalated where the Sheriff’s Office might be sent over or maybe Martinsburg actually it’s the police, but in any case as an example, so to say, ‘Hey look, you have to shut down’. Would you enforce those kind of COVID 19 regulations? Or even they could involve wearing a face mask. I was at the Moulton Park on a Memorial Day. It was closed. I was going to have a picnic with a friend. It was closed. The signs said it is not open. In fact, they removed the picnic tables. So presumably, someone could have said ‘Hey, don’t congregate here’, or even arrest you. How would you handle those kind of mandates? Are those constitutional? What would you do?
Mike Chapman: Well, let’s take the face mask. I don’t see the Sheriff’s office being able to enforce masks. We have a 32-33 deputies and they are all not on duty at one time. At any given time, there’s four or five out on the road. We have 56-ish thousand citizens. We are a tourist economy that has three million visitors per year. We don’t have enough deputies to do the law enforcement jobs that we have now, let alone try to tackle 3 million plus 56,000 people who may or may not be in compliance with mask law. I think this is, at best, it’s the responsibility of the Health Department to enforce. It’s also the responsibility of private businesses to handle on their own. I’m a little, in some ways, shocked at people that fight the mass thing so much. My entire life, I’ve been involved in things. Like, I’m an IT guy that worked in a factory. When I went out on a factory floor I had to have steel toed boots, hearing protection, eye protection. In certain areas a hard hat. Safety equipment is part of many, many, many jobs. If you play sports you are required to wear safety equipment. The mask thing to me is, I just wear one if they want me to, and that’s it. But I understand people who don’t want to do that. I understand some people can’t do that. But, it’s up to the businesses to enforce that, and if someone demands to come in without a mask and their policy is that you must have a mask, it’s within their right to deny service to the customer that doesn’t want to comply.
And if that situation that comes escalated, then we’ll step in and remove them because they at that point will be trespassing. But just to walk around and tell people or site people for not wearing a mask, we’re not going to do that. As for the gathering, if the park was officially closed and the owners of the park, is that publicly owned?
Richard: No, that’s County. That’s Moulton Park.
Mike Chapman: They may have closed the park. But no one was really interested in enforcing that. The Governor himself said people should be outside and doing things. And so if you were outside using public grounds for family activity, I have no problem with that whatsoever…
Richard: As we come toward a conclusion, why would the voters especially choose you versus your three or supposedly four opponents? What will be your distinguishing points?
Mike Chapman: Well, I’m the best candidate for the job. That’s a good reason to pick me. I bring a different perspective. The guys with law enforcement experience, to be a law enforcement officer minimum requirements are, high school diploma and 14 weeks at the academy and some on the job training. And I’m not speaking about specifically the other candidates, but just generally speaking. So, you can come up through the ranks and run a police department based on that without a broad scope of other world experience. And your knowledge is sort of pigeon-holed into that area. I think what I bring to the table above and beyond the other guys is that broader range of experience. Other ideas, ways to do things faster and more efficient. I’ve got some ideas and I don’t really want to go into the detail of them yet because they’re so, I’ll call them state-of-the-art, that the state code doesn’t even address whether it’s legal to do it or not. So I’m going to have to get a legal opinion on how to do some of these things to help improve the processes in the Sheriff’s office. I think that also having been in private sector, managing people, Sheriff’s office is king of definitely a chain of command king of organization, and it needs to remain so.
But what happens is, police officers who have done this forever, they become a little jaded. They definitely, they see the worst in society, and they see the best people quite often when they’re having the worst day of their lives. So, they’re a little jaded. They don’t always think in terms of more modern management and leadership styles. And I think this Sheriff’s Office needs an injection of that. We need to empower the deputies and the supervisors of the deputies. We need to provide them more competitive things to help make their jobs better, like training, for example. We have one guy that’s trained in action reconstruction. We’ve got two detectives. Why not train more people? If I find out that Officer X wants to be trained in accident reconstruction, because that’s something they’re really passionate, really want to do, I should be able to provide that training to them to further their career for their knowledge. And also just give them a better experience while they work there. Plus, when you only have one guy that involved in a discipline, if he moves on, then we have no one. So we need some bench strength. I think that also some of the things I bring to the table with that broader experience is like recruiting. We recruit deputies now by put an ad in the paper and an ad on Facebook. And we’re not drawing a broad base. We have no minority representation whatsoever.
So when I recruit deputies, I’m going to use, borrow from my business experience. What do we do? We partnership with educational institutions. We’re going to partnership with Shepherd College and catch their criminal justice majors. Blue Ridge technical Community College. Even Jefferson High School. There are students there taking forensics classes right now and Washington High School as well. So if we actually partnership with these organizations and try to recruit these kids that have a propensity for law enforcement type backgrounds, and then plan our testing around graduation time so we catch them first when they’re right out of school. And reach out to them to invite them to the testing, personally, maybe even have job fairs, if necessarily. Do something more than just an ad in the paper. And I think we can get a better pool we are picking from. We can also diversify our workforce a little bit.
Richard: You mentioned you’re in IT, do you work for a larger company, have your own business? Just tell us a little more about that.
Mike Chapman: Both, actually. My primary job in IT, I worked for a local company, there’s no longer here, Royal Vendors. The largest budget I ever managed just for IT was $3 million. Now, Royal Vendors, the world headquarters was here in Kearneysville. But we had plants in Mississippi once upon a time. Tennessee, Arizona. And of course, there we a plant in Missouri. It was an incredible place to work. I rode the upswing from $70 million to a $300 million company, and then I wrote it back down again as they started divesting of other locations. To add to that, we also had sales offices in Canada, Mexico, Australia and Europe. So it was a global IT network that I managed. And then on the side, I had a contracting in business. I did IT work for daycare, for healthcare. I did work for other manufacturing companies. I did work for construction companies, I did work for property management companies. I always just had kind of a sideline there. I’ve owned a few other businesses along the way, including a commercial property maintenance company, and property management company, which I still own.
Richard: Any concluding thoughts you’d like to share?
Mike Chapman: Basically, I am definitely the right candidate for the job. I’ve got the experience in finance to manage the budget. I think this year we’re fine with the CARES Act propped up the County budget, but at some point, we’re going to be in trouble. Because video lottery revenues are down, hotel and motel taxes are down, and table games revenues down, property taxes seemed to be on the increase or they soon will be because houses are selling like crazy. And I’m hearing from my realtor friends that they’re getting 25% over asking price. It’s going to drive up our property tax revenue. So where we’re going to land, I don’t know. But if we do find a budget shortfall, we’ll figure it out. I’ve got the experience to do budget modeling to come up with ways that very quickly tell what we can do to make the Sheriff’s Department work. If we have to lean it up, we can still provide the same local service to Jefferson County on a smaller budget for a short period of time. I’ve got some ideas for retention. I know, I’ve talked to some deputies. There are various morale problems. I think I can improve it. I’ve already got those plans in place. Basically, we can just provide the citizens of Jefferson County with a higher level of service than they currently have, regardless of the budget condition.
John Doyle: To me, the most pressing issue is the need for clean government. And I define clean government as government that is accessible and accountable to the people, that is responsible and responsive to the people, that he is open and transparent. And I’ve been working on that for a long time. I became particularly attuned to that with the fight over Rockwool. Because a whole lot of that was done in secret. Whether you want Rockwell or not, I would argue that we should not have these decisions made in secret. And I also will confess, when I served for 20 years or 22 years actually; I’m in my 24th year in the House of Delegates, but in three separate stints. I was elected in ’82, got defeated in ’84, got back in in ’92, stayed for 20 years. Retired voluntarily in 2012 and became Deputy Secretary of Revenue in Governor Tomlin’s second term. And he was term limited. So when his term ended, my job ended. And I got back elected, that was in 2016, and I was elected again to the legislature in 2018. When I was in before, I thought we weren’t transparent enough, and I argued for greater transparency.
But Richard, I will tell you, we were a whole lot more transparent than has been the case in the last half dozen years with the current leadership of the legislature. And particularly the last four years, with Jim Justice as governor.
Richard: Is it a legislative thing you think where there needs to be changes or, because of what you’re saying now is a little subjective in the fact that you’re saying it’s less transparent, but presumably the laws are basically the same, and also what needs to be done, in your opinion, to make it more transparent?
John Doyle: It is both. It is a problem with both the legislature and the executive branch. Yes, the laws, in many cases are the same. But how they are applied, it is different. Legislatively, let me give you an example. I served for 12 years on the House finance committee, actually 14 years. And for 12 years, I was on the budget conference committee. Every year I would be appointed to the budget conference committee to negotiate the final version of the budget with the Senate. There would be a half a dozen delegates and a half a dozen senators. These meetings would be open to the public to anyone who wanted to come. We would argue back and forth on different points of difference in the budget and come to compromise. This last year, the final version of the budget was a private negotiation between the chair of the Senate Finance Committee and the chair of the House Finance committee. That’s not right. And in terms of the Executive Branch, since Governor Justice has taken over, there has been much less ability for the public to find out exactly what is going on in the various agencies of state government.
Now, what needs to be done, now there are some changes in law that I think need to be made. One is if a project is going to be announced, like Rockwool, for example. Presently, the rules are, you have to advertise it in a newspaper of local circulation. You have to advertise it twice. I think you also ought to have to advertise it electronically, in addition to that print advertising. A couple of years ago, the coal industry came up with a bill that would have done a complete switcharoo. Yes, let’s advertise it electronically, but in return for that, eliminate the requirement for advertising in print. Well, this wouldn’t work in coal country, because people in the southern coal fields, we think we’ve got bad internet here and bad cell phone service, it’s much, much worse down there. And for many people, the only way they get information is the local weekly newspaper in the county. I think the requirement needs to be for both, that’s an example of a change in statute I have to make the executive branch more transparent….
Richard: Where do you see it going? And what’s your current interpretation? What could or should be done regarding the Rockwool plant. I saw some of your comments, but just go ahead and explain for the viewers.
John Doyle: The fight against Rockwool is not necessarily against Rockwool per se. It’s a fight against air pollution and water pollution. In terms of water pollution, the EPA, the Federal EPA, strongly recommends to states, now West Virginia is one of the states that has what’s called primacy, where our Environmental Agency, the DEP, the Department of Environmental Protection, has the ability to regulate. But the regulations are not supposed to be any weaker than the federal floor. Now, the EPA says to the DEP, you should not allow settling ponds for storm water management in karst topography. Karst being the kind of porous limestone we have around here. Not up on the Blue Ridge, but the rest of the county, the part of the county that’s in the Shenandoah Valley. The DEP let them do it anyway.
Now, for heaven’s sake, sink holes can open up any time and they can get wider and wider and wider. You just don’t know. And it’s possible for a sinkhole to open up underneath one of these ponds that has a pretty thick liner. I’ll give him that. That the liners thick enough. But if the sink hole gets so wide that it’s wider than the liner, all that dirty water gets dumped into our groundwater. And well over half the people of Jefferson County get their drinking water from ground water. This is the kind of thing that we have to fight. And I’m hoping that this investigation of Rockwool will show that our DEP should have required them to use whatever type of storm water management EPA requires in karst. That’s just an example…
Richard: Another topic, with the current COVID 19 mandates of the governor, do you think he’s overstepped his bounds and would you support changing the West Virginia code, to require the legislature to automatically review those kind of mandates which now don’t have any expiration? Maybe they would have a 30-day limit. The legislature must reconvene. What do you think about that?
John Doyle: My biggest problem with the governor is, he has overstepped his bounds in terms of giving out money. The state constitution does not permit the governor to appropriate money. Yet he is taking it upon himself to do that. The Governor does have broad emergency powers, but he cannot appropriate money. I think most of the things that he’s done, I probably would have voted for, but he needed to call the legislature into session and say, Here’s my plan, present the plan; let members offer Amendments if they want it. We vote on the amendments and then we vote on the final plan. That’s the proper way to have done this…
Richard: He didn’t get the legislature’s input on the financing.
John Doyle: It’s not just input. The Constitution requires legislative approval for appropriating money.
Richard: On the constitutional side, what about the issue of saying which businesses could be open, they’re “essential”, others were not “essential”. As you know, many businesses struggled. More than a few have shut down permanently. Do you feel this is an infringement of, constitutional rights? Then on the individual side, saying to say people have to wear masks in certain conditions, based on spacing or square footage of the business. Is this appropriate? Or is this not appropriate?
John Doyle: I believe in the mask requirement, I think we all should have been required to wear masks from the beginning. If we had done that, if the President of the United States and all 50 governors had said that, I think we would have fewer than half of the people who have died from COVID would have died from COVID. Now, in terms of businesses, if we require people to wear masks, we could have let the businesses be open much more than they were. I think we went about it the wrong way.
Richard: Is it okay to shut a business down? Does the governor have authority to say that these small businesses are “non-essential” or does he not have authority?
John Doyle: I think the governor does have the authority to do it. I’m arguing that if he had required masks instead, we would not have had to shut them down.
Richard: One issue I’ve worked on in the legislature, talking to legislators such as yourself, is the issue of vaccine choice or health freedom. And specifically, in order to attend school in West Virginia, all vaccinations are required, no exceptions, except extremely hard to get medical exceptions, which are very few, like 100 statewide. So short question, do you support providing religious or conscientious exemptions for a parent or even can be an adult in some cases, like employers sometimes required vaccines, who has a conscientious or religious objection?
John Doyle: Richard, you know my answer to that question. So for the benefit of your listeners, I will say no, I do not. What might be the reasoning for that, why do you think it’s not appropriate? Public health. I mean, the first requirement of government is protection of the public health and safety, and that’s why we have stop signs and rules that you have got to drive on a certain side of the road. Yeah.
Richard: To me, that’s not a good enough answer, but we could probably have a long discussion on that. We’ll leave it at that for now. That’s clear enough for our viewers.
You had introduced legislation to have a type of red flag law where in certain circumstances that would mean firearms could be confiscated, I guess, in certain circumstances. And honestly, I haven’t read your proposal. Is that correct? You introduce that, and also, if so, why do you feel it’s necessary?
John Doyle: Because some people, a very few, very small number of people, a tiny minority, are in fact very, very dangerous to themselves and to people around them, particularly their loved ones. And, you’re right, I did sponsored that bill, it went nowhere. I did not expect it to go anywhere. I was very careful. I researched, I think about at least a dozen states had these laws. I researched them all. I regarded the one in Arizona as the one that was friendliest to civil liberties. I took the Arizona law and made it even more friendly to civil liberties. For example, under the bill I introduced, you cannot seize the firearm right away. Or at least you can, but only for a very short period of time, and the government is required, within 10 days to give the person a hearing so the person can come up and say, Here’s why I am not a danger, and the burden of proof is on the state to prove the person a danger in that situation. Not the reverse. So at any rate, I will say this, Richard, even the American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia opposed my bill. But in private conversation, they told me, John, you’re right, you got the most civil liberties friendly version of this bill that there is anywhere in the country…
Related to this, my opponent likes to, at least leaves open the inference of the inference, that I’m in favor of de-funding the police. I am not. I want to give the police more money. Specifically, I want to raise their salaries. And I’ve always been an advocate for raising the salaries in the state police when I’ve been in the legislature, so there…..
Richard: Children themselves have very little risk. Of course, they’re teachers there. But generally the COVID itself has proven to be much less deadly than we thought, with something like 0.25% infection fatality rate. All that being said, it somewhat seems a lot of these things are political in the sense that there’s a lot of unnecessary restrictions, in my view. Do you have any comment on that?
John Doyle: I think you and I would disagree on some of those restrictions. I think some of them are necessary. But the bottom line is this. I trust the science. And the reason it’s gotten political, is that we have too many elected political leaders and appointed political leaders that have attempted to ignore the science for their own political benefit.
Richard: On the issue of taxation or increasing taxes, that’s a local issue, personally I know that was something we’re deciding here, I’m not for the excess levy. I think people are more capable of deciding how to spend their own money, so especially with things like the excess levy, and you could apply this out to the state level, the schools get funding mostly from the state level, or the state decides the funding. Would you say that we should, in some cases, increase taxes on gasoline or other things, or various kinds of taxes, personal property tax or different things, because there’s a need for various programs, or more to the side that, if people have more of their own money to spend, like the local school taxes, 40% for that excess levy increase in the property tax. I know it’s been in effect for decades, but it costs tax payers 40% more than if it wasn’t in effect. Should we reduce taxes? That’s the easy way to put it. Or do we need to increase them sometimes?
John Doyle: Some taxes should be reduced and some should not be. I have argued for doing away with the car tax. I think that is a real pain in the butt when it comes to the functioning of the economy. Now, if you do away with the tax, you either have to reduce the budget or you have to find another tax or fee or something, to replace the money. I advocate doubling the severance tax on energy-producing natural resources. That would give us an additional $250 million to $300 million a year in the state budget to do things with, and that would enable us to do away with the car tax. Now, it gets complicated because the car tax is part of the property tax. Property taxes go to local governments. So in order to do this, I think you have to mandate that the legislature come up with a replacement for local governments to get rid of that money. All of the property taxes go locally, and so I would insist that even though I’m for getting rid of the car tax, you’ve got to have an absolute, it would have to be done by a constitutional amendment, and there would have to be an absolute hard and fast mandate in that constitutional amendment forcing the legislature to replace the money for counties and cities and school districts dollar for dollar…
Richard: It’s kind of really weird that the Rockwool are is part of Ranson when it’s not. So I think that has been corrected, right? It’s not adjacent to Ransom. Am I not correct, that’s not adjacent?
John Doyle: No, they used a highway, that’s why it’s called pipe stem; sometimes called shoe string. You take two or three miles of a highway; it connects you to a farm. You annex the highway and the farm. And the irony is, it happened when Dave Hamill was mayor of Ranson, God rest his soul. Dave Hamill wanted to shed Ransom of its reputation as being a factory town. And he envisioned moving the train station, the commuter train station, from Duffields to that location, to Kearneysville. And turning that into a multi-use complex; offices, retail, apartments, single-family homes. And that was Dave Hamill’s vision, and that’s why he persuaded Ranson to do that, pipe stem annexation; to shed their manufacturing image. And look what we have now.
Richard: I’ll agree with you on the lack of transparency in that. That’s certainly a problem. I’m not enough up to answer properly about all the different legislation of 2001, and you said previous, but I do believe that has been corrected now, right, that is correct. The problem of the pipe stem and the minor boundary adjustment.
John Doyle: That is exactly right. When the second one happened, Herb Snyder and I went to work again, and we passed a bill, I think it was in 08, and that’s what created what’s called the urban growth boundary.
Richard: But Mr. Simon was saying there was a more recent bill in the last session or so about the so-called minor boundary adjustment.
John Doyle: There was… There was… And again, and he is right about this. The Municipal League and the County Commissioners Association are constantly fighting each other over stuff like this, and the legislature has to come in and referee, and what we usually say is, if you two come together on something, we’ll pass it. We’ll presume its okay with both of you and pass it. And that sort of approach usually works, but every now and then it doesn’t.
Richard: In conclusion, I guess you indirectly or directly talked about a lot, but did you want to say anything else about how you will differentiate yourself and why voters should choose you versus Mr. Simon?
John Doyle: I think I have, and I hope I’ve answered all your questions. I would just say this. He calls himself a common sense candidate, and I personally don’t think he’s making sense.
Steve Cox: Great, thanks. Thanks for having me on. Again, my name is Steve Cox, I am a candidate for Sheriff of Jefferson County. I’m an independent candidate, which means I am politically unaffiliated, and I’ve been like that since the day that I registered as a voter, so I’m a life-long independent individual. On top of that, my feel about law enforcement is, politics shouldn’t be involved in that arena. So I like the fact that I’m an independent and I’m running for Sheriff using my background and experience.
Richard: Okay, yeah. So right now, here in Jefferson County, what do you think the biggest issue is? Right at the moment for the law enforcement or Sheriff’s department.
Steve Cox: It’s addiction. Hands down. Our drug problem; we’ve had a war on drugs. I think that phrase was kind of coined with Ronald Reagan, so we’ve been going through this war drugs for a very long time. And we’ve been able to do a lot of good things with it, but we can’t get ahead of it. And it’s because of this one component that’s in there, it’s called addiction. We cannot police our way out of the war on drugs, if we continue to ignore addiction. And I’ve been talking about this, and I’ve actually been talking about it for a very long time, much longer, than I’ve even been running for sheriff. If we don’t get a handle on addiction, we don’t help with addiction, and when I say we, I mean the government, we don’t try to help the addiction, we are never really going to make any good solid headway in the war on drugs. Our county, I’m not speaking nationwide, but our county, that is our county’s largest problem. It absolutely drives most of the crime that happens in this county, and I say that with confidence, using my 20 plus years in law enforcement locally and everywhere else, to see that it is our number one issue.
Richard: How did we get here? I work on some health issues, not particularly addiction, like Health Freedom and vaccine choice. There’s some interplay because they involve large pharmaceutical companies. A good percentage of people got addicted to prescription pain killers. What do you think about that? Is that a big factor? Or not really?
Steve Cox: Well, it’s a horrible thing. And it’s true. A lot of this stems from prescribed medicines. We in law enforcement, we know that people will actually jump on an airplane and fly to other states and scoop up a bunch of prescriptions, and I’m talking about a written prescription, back in the old days a written prescription, and they will collect a bunch of these up. They’ll obtain the prescriptions and they’ll come back to West Virginia and sell them. That’s just one method, but that’s something that probably was at least a big thing going back about five to 10 years ago. It was one way, probably a major way, that a lot of that was coming into our area. But prescription drugs is no doubt a huge factor in our addiction problem right now. And when those prescriptions run out, those addicts tend to run over to the illicit side of things and get those ____.
Richard: Since you’re talking about a more holistic approach on your website too, and you can’t really combat it, well, to some extent you can, through arresting people or jailing them. It seems like it exploded in the last decade, right, where this whole prescription drug thing, where they didn’t used to be opioids prescribed. I mean, I guess at least 10 or more years ago than that, and now it’s like we’ve got this huge mess. Should more be done on the legislative side or the business side? Did profit motive cause, at the expense of the health of the society cause a lot of this?
Steve Cox: I would hope that health officials and pharmaceuticals would not have pushed the use of these drugs to gain pure profit. It probably has happened, but that would be a very big issue. And to go back to the legislative side of things, I do think that this is an area, and I’m not for bigger, more government, but I think that is one of those areas where government does exist to make things better for us. And I think that they should get involved and see what we can do about introducing some legislation that would help prevent that problem. However, I will say that the medical field, the doctors themselves making these prescriptions, computer related programs that are tracking prescriptions, have helped a great deal. It’s just not enough. It’s like, telling police that you’re doing a great job, but… we still have a drug crisis. Yes, we all understand this, and I’d like to see that it doesn’t fall squarely always on law enforcement. It’s got to be shared. And that’s where I say addiction, addiction services and that sort of thing. We’ve got to get something done with that, even like you were saying at the legislative side. Why can’t we get some government assistance in legislation that helps with addiction?
Richard: I remember reading not so long ago about the illicit drug prescribers. Some town in West Virginia, I wasn’t here, Jefferson County, they got like 6 million or 60 million or some ridiculous number of prescriptions that it would have been enough for every person in the county to have like 50 pills or something. It was crazy.
Steve Cox: There’s doctors out there who do make money just based on passing out prescriptions. And I’ve heard about these doctors who have issued and millions and millions and millions of pills to a handful of people.
Richard: The profit thing, being in the health freedom, which is kind of another issue, we meaning like vaccination choice, that kind of thing. I’ve seen some nexus that these profit motives can actually go awry.
Steve Cox: I don’t want to throw a bunch of mud at politicians, but I don’t think that anybody is blind. And most all people have seen how politicians pockets get filled with money, even by pharmaceutical companies that are pushing for the wrong reason.
Richard: Campaign donations. That’s definitely a factor. Absolutely. Well, on another topic, with the current COVID 19 situation, there’s been different restrictions put in place by the governor and the health department. I had a funny experience on Memorial Day. I went down to Moulton Par. I live in Shannondale, and decided to have a picnic down there with a friend. I noticed that they had removed all the tables. I thought, why did they waste your money removing all of the tables. Anyway, the point was, the sign said the park was closed. But there were people sitting around anyway, and honestly, nobody was bothering them. Would you, as a law enforcement official, try to enforce dubious mandates? For instance, ‘Okay, this parks closed’, or even, this has happened in other jurisdictions, I know it happened in Berkeley County. Some store said, Okay, well, you know you violated a barber shop, in fact, you violated our mandate. You have to be closed. So presumably the Sheriff would be sent out to close that store. How would you handle things like that?
Steve Cox: Let’s talk directly to the executive orders that came down. There is nothing in these executive orders that allow or give the power to law enforcement to have any enforcement role in that, at all. What we’ve seen locally, for instance, in Shepherdstown, the town council issued orders to the Shepherdstown Police Department. We need to remember that the police departments are run by the elected mayor. So when the council got together, they and the mayor decided that they were going to enforce face mask regulations that they couldn’t necessarily enforce, they decided they were going to use the law of that covers trespassing. If you’re asked to put a face mask on and you fail to do so, they’re going to call the police on you. Can they do that? Well, if you refuse to leave their store, yes, you can be arrested for trespassing. But, we shouldn’t rely on police to police this issue. As a sheriff, if I were to become elected Sheriff, I will not be sending my deputies on calls that initiate from the refusal to wear face masks. I know a lot of people would say that I’m now completely against face mask.
That’s not the issue here. I encourage everybody to wear a face mask I wear then myself. However, it is not going to be something that you’re going to have me responding to. Once you tell people, yes, call us, we’re going to come and make somebody where a face mask, you’re going to get thousands of calls. And I don’t simply have time to enforce face masks. I will not do it.
Richard: Okay, that’s clear.
Steve Cox: To make things clear, if you allow me to get into this a little bit more.
Richard: Sure, go ahead.
Steve Cox: On my Facebook page, you’ll see a writing that I put up many months ago, and it was in response to Shepherdstown’s request to the law enforcement to get involved in this. And I put it out and I actually got a lot of positive comments about it. I had a few that were negative. People, I think, tried to twist it a little bit and talk about the fact that I don’t care about people’s property rights, and that’s a 100% wrong. Because, if you go back maybe a month or so, you’ll see that I’ve made a posting about erecting illegal signs on other people’s property.
Richard: I did see that.
Steve Cox: I pointed this out and tried to explain to everybody what the laws are. And so… No, property rights are property rights, but what I wanted to explain is, shop owners, business owners, you don’t want to get involved enforcing face masks on people. What if there’s a guardian and a child in a store. This child has an issue with wearing a mask, whether it be a disability or something like that. And one of the examples brought to me was a child with Downs’s syndrome. And they were taking the child out to socialize. It’s education, it was life experiences for socializing. Wouldn’t you feel really bad if you were the one that walked up to the parent and said ‘Your kid has to have a mask on to me in my store’, and they said, ‘Well, listen, we’re just trying to do our thing’, they say ‘well leave’ and it gets all heated, that law enforcement shows up and now law enforcement is, ‘Well’. We just took the socialization part of this experience and decreased that child’s social activity and awareness, and we just dropped that level. We just destroyed anything that was even happened that day or maybe many days before that, because somebody called the law enforcement. Or, there’s a case out there where two people in a store got into an argument, and one of the individuals pulled out a knife and stabbed the other person. That turned into a pursuit. Law enforcement got involved. And that individual was so enraged about what happened that they charged law enforcement and law enforcement discharged their weapons and that person is now dead.
And now we have an officer with a death on their hands because of a silly face mask issue that somebody had. How are we going to conduct ourselves, what are we going to think, when that type of situation comes here to Jefferson County, and it becomes a national news issue, and we bring all of that drama and all of that attention down on us, and we have the rioting and all that type of stuff that goes along with these situations. So arguing and fussing over face masks just isn’t worth it in the long run. And as Sheriff, I simply am not going to get involved with it. And shutting down businesses, we saw that right here in Jefferson County. The Sheriff got involved with shutting down a business. What business of the Sheriff’s is that? It’s none. Absolutely none. It’s a health department issue. If, and only when, the health department has an issue and they try to shut that down, and that individual declines to cooperate and they take it to a civil court, and that civil court then renders to me documentation that says, ‘Hey, he has to shut down’, then I will get involved as I’m required to do as a Sheriff in those civil issues.
Richard: It never got that far, did it? I think I know what you’re talking about, like the golf course and the gun range were shut down. I don’t believe any papers were ever filed. That was part of the issue, right?
Steve Cox: There was more issues than, I think, just an executive order from the Governor that came down about businesses and such. But I’d like to point out, that it was the only golf course shut down in the entire state of West Virginia. And Governor Jim Justice, who made the executive order, didn’t shut any of his own golf courses down. I’m not blaming Justice for this, I’m just saying it happened to be the only one that was attacked and the Sheriff had zero, absolutely no reason to get involved with that…
Richard: You mentioned that maybe your second most important issue is more out of the Police Department. And I guess that might interrelate somewhat with the issue of training. Would you do anything different or introduce anything? Would you like to just generally address that issue of morale and maybe the related issue of training officers?
Steve Cox: So I think good leadership coming in will help fix officer morale. I also believe that getting somebody in there that the guys actually know is going to be good for them. Most of those guys, actually, everybody except for two of those deputies working over there, came in during my tenure there in Ranson, maybe just after I started. I can think of maybe two, two guys, Dave Colbert and Foreman, who have been there just a little bit longer, been around law enforcement in Jefferson County, just a little bit longer than me. A familiar face that they worked with and didn’t deal with as administration, will go a long way to increase morale. They’re getting a guy that’s been out there working the streets with them in the past, and I think that’s going to make them, one happy, and they’re going to have a great outlook for the future. So morale will increase. The training aspect of this; so I didn’t go into great detail about who I am and what I’ve done in my life, but my entire adult professional career has been law enforcement. I started back in ’98 as a police officer in Ranson. Actually… before that, back in the early ’90s, I was a Frederick County Sheriff’s Department cadet in Virginia.
I’ve been doing this for quite some time. But we’ll stick to the professional side of things, 1998. I became a law enforcement instructor many years after that, and I actually served with the United States Department of State as a law enforcement instructor. Now, I did that here, across the country and world-wide., There is not another candidate on this ticket who appreciates training as much as I do. This was my full-time job for 10 plus years. I wasn’t a part-time instructor who went back to the station and took calls. I was a full-time law enforcement instructor, you name it. I have instructed in it, I’ve taught it, I’ve written curriculum, developed it and delivered it.
So in law enforcement in West Virginia, there’s a minimum training certification required. Minimum hours, it’s got to cover certain topics. All of that has to be done. Continuing education is also mandated by law, that has to be done. But, the training that is sometimes used as your mandatory yearly training, is the same thing all officers get, year after year after year. And I’m not saying that good repetitive training should be in the future, what I’m saying is the repetitive, free, cheap training that we use to continue to keep our certifications, I’m going to stop that. We’re going to start looking at things like your everyday tools. Firearm control and retention type of stuff. Driving… These guys, some of them have never even been through a driving school before. We have a great facility right over here where I live in Summit Point…
Steve Cox: So that’s one of the things that irritates me, when I hear some of the other guys talk, they say, well, we can get this free money from the government and you can get free training. No it’s not free money from the government. We can apply for grant money. That grant money is actually tax money. Yes, we can do that. And I plan on doing that. We have to do that. Let’s flip this thing back about eight months ago. COVID 19 hit. It shut this county down for three months. The bulk of our money comes from the property taxes. What the percentage is, I’m not exactly sure, but it’s more than what we get from businesses. But if you don’t think three months or a quarter of the year worth of business income into this county isn’t going to hurt, then you’re kidding yourself.
It’s going to hurt. I’ve heard other people running for Sheriff, running for other elected offices, get into this thing and say, we’re going to be just fine. I never thought that for a minute. I said every day that this continues it’s just going to get worse. And we have to start looking at, when does this end? At the end of it, I still hear people say, oh, we’re doing fine. Now, everybody sees that there’s a problem. We had a problem when this thing hit. So we have to figure out how we’re going to provide essential services to this county. I’m not talking just the Sheriff’s office. All of the essential services that we provide, we have to figure out how we’re going to do that. And unfortunately, what I think is going to happen is the non-essential services that we also provide are going to have to take a sideline. People don’t want to hear that. You can’t take that away from me. Well, we have to do. We have to use the money that we do have for the things that we as government police have to provide you.
Richard: It seems like there has to be some trimming all around.
Steve Cox: Absolutely. Everybody has to trim. So a big question is, and I get this a lot. What about manpower? A lot of the officer morale that I’m hearing from other people, is that there’s not enough people at the Sheriff’s office. I don’t believe that is a huge issue in the officer morale. In fact, I think on day one, if I was to walk into that Sheriff’s office, I can provide everything I need to provide with the manpower that I have. I’m going to mix things up a little bit, and that’s going to help with the manpower issues. Well, let’s go back a year, a year ago, this about this time last year, the new budget stuff was being thought of and created, and the current Sheriff asked for 10 new deputies. He hasn’t asked for 10 deputies since he’s been in office, so it was kind of weird that is asking for it in this very last year as sheriff, but he asked for it. Where are we going to get the budget? We have to actually look at trimming what we have to keep what we have. We can’t afford to bring on 10 new guys, it would be great if we could…
Steve Cox: We have some law enforcement experienced candidates, which is great compared to what we’ve had previous. A lot of inexperience and a lot of just absolute no experience in law enforcement. I think what stands me above and beyond what everybody else has to offer this county is the diversity in my experience. I have been a law enforcement officer right here in Jefferson County. I left and worked for the United States Department of State’s Law Enforcement branch as a law enforcement instructor. I’ve been doing this for over 20 years. I’ve done it here and world-wide. I’ve held multiple ranks. My jobs have been, for the most part, all inclusive of a lot of different things, and I’m not going to name off all 20 or 30 different things that I’ve ever done in law enforcement, but my diversity is what sets me apart. From that, being a public employee to being a business owner that I currently am, my business itself is wrapped up in law enforcement. It is completely related to the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution. I spend my work days in the courthouse and at the jail. I have the power of arrest, so even outside of that public paycheck I used to get, my own functioning company, which is not paid for by the government, paid for by individuals that pay me for my services.
Everything about my adult career has been law enforcement, so when we’re talking the Sheriff’s position in particular, and you’re dealing with what is written in the Constitution, his job, criminal, civil and in taxes. I have covered all of those and I’ve been very successful in doing all of those. And if you look at my competition, you’ll see a history of a lot of failed inability to complete tasks and serve their office. You’re not going to find that with me. So come November 3rd, before you get there, do your research. You don’t have to listen to me. I want you to go and do your research, look into each and every one of these individuals and come out of it and tell yourself what you want as a Sheriff and go, check that box. I’m going to be there. And I’m the last one in the column, Cox for Sheriff.
Wayne Clark: Good morning everybody, my name is Wayne Clark on running for House of Delegates. District 65 here in Jefferson County. I am a small business owner in Jefferson County, most known as the owner of Locust Hill Golf Course. I am a pro-family, pro-life and pro Second Amendment. And I look forward to your questions.
Richard: What do you think is in the district or maybe statewide, what do you think the biggest issue is right now?
Wayne Clark: It’s COVID. It’s the biggest issue nationwide. What COVID has done to small businesses and what it’s about to do. And what I mean by about to do as a prime example, myself. As a golf course, during the summer time, we’re busy, but in the winter time is when we rely a lot on our social environment. We rely on hosting Christmas parties, we rely on live music nights. We rely on our restaurant sales. Our restaurant sales are about to take a massive hit. Because the current COVID restrictions that are put on restaurants, ____ and entertainment venues like myself that are about to come out with 25 people gathering, no buffets, no live music inside. So a lot of small business owners are starting to see that type of thing. And other things such as your PPE protection stuff, the Plexiglas the gloves. We’ve got to use Styrofoam plates, we can’t use glass plates. All those additional expenses are going to really start to get more strict as we’re going into the winter months and that’s going to put a big strain on a lot of small businesses.
Richard: Yes, I hear what you’re saying. Already, we know many restaurants have closed. And I saw there was something that said, was it 25% of restaurants are to close permanently? Maybe in New York City, it’s more than that. What do you think, has the governor overstepped his bounds? Is this really all crazy? Now, studies have shown, although at first we didn’t know, there’s really not concerned about touching services; that’s not how it’s spread, so why are we doing all this crazy stuff? Do you have any comments on that?
Wayne Clark: Let’s go back to March when the governor issued the state-wide shut down. And many other governments followed suit. We had no idea what this virus was going to do. We had no idea how the virus was going to affect us. But we do know now. We do know that it’s very hard to get COVID from touch surfaces. It’s very hard, if you’re maintaining your social distance, it’s very hard to get it from just talking to someone. So at this point now, what we know, we should now start opening up some of the restrictions, allowing businesses to maintain themselves. Allowing businesses to do what they have to do. Sure, we have to have smaller staff and all that because we have less customers, but no customers that doesn’t work. Less customers, that does work, and we need to open up their restrictions so that we can at least have less customers.
Richard: I’ll agree with you on that. A lot of it, I think, is posturing. So you go to a restaurant and say, Okay, wear a mask. And then, obviously, when you’re sitting at your table eating, you’re not wearing a mask it’s just like appearances and it’s very damaging, and honestly, it’s not very pleasant for me. People like myself, we don’t really feel like going out and eating so much. I mean, occasionally I may. It doesn’t make a lot of sense. So one question is, in the House of Delegates, will you vote to modify the emergency powers? Because now they’re going on and on. Would you want to restrict them in time to maybe 30 days and then the legislature has to come back?
Wayne Clark: I do agree we have to make some sort of adjustments to the emergency powers act. It’s not just my opinion, it’s others who are running also agree. To take one person to get to have full authority for this long. Or to bypass, as an example, back in April, when the Governor issued additional powers to Dr. Reidy of the health department here in Jefferson County. Those types of things should be looked at and revised in this setting, and you hear it all the time. Let me make my choice of what I feel is best for me and my family. Don’t dictate my choice from someone else.
Richard: I agree. I agree with that. Individual responsibility. If you feel personally that you are at great risk, then avoid going to, say any event or restaurant or whatever. But to say that everybody has to follow these very dubious guidelines, about all the mask wearing and distancing and all those things. I think it is very questionable. Let the people decide themselves.
Wayne Clark: Correct.
Richard: I know that Governor Justice is supposedly is a Republican. I know he changed parties. Do you think the response is muted from some legislators or people more because he’s supposedly a Republican? Honestly, myself, I like S Marshall Wilson for governor. I am going to write him in. But what do you think? Is there a little of that good old boy politics going on? Are people a little reluctant to push back, the Republicans, because of that fact?
Wayne Clark: I don’t necessarily want to speak about that. I don’t know. I’m not in the room while these decisions are going. I too have listened to Mr. Wilson, and I believe, as well, that he would be a strong candidate for governor. I can’t answer that because I’m not there, I don’t know…
Richard: When do you think life begins?
Wayne Clark: Life begins at conception. It’s clear. My wife and I, unfortunately had two miscarriages before we had our twins, and I have an older daughter, she’s 26 now, who has two daughters herself. And I had her at a young age and there was no thought process, it was, Okay, here we go. We’re going from college to parents right away. So conception starts life.
Richard: I’ve been working on in the legislature over several years now, the health freedom issue, or often called vaccination choice. In West Virginia, we have this mandate, No vaccination, No school. Do you think there should be religious or conscientious objections to vaccinations or like it is now is okay?
Wayne Clark: Interesting question. My personal beliefs, my daughters have been vaccinated for many things. My daughters have not been vaccinated for some things. It is a religious belief on what should be, and if you choose not to have your child vaccinated for something… Let’s go way back. So let’s go back to polio. Okay, if you chose not to have your child vaccinated for polio, but at the same time, the school says, Okay, well you can’t come to school because you did not get that vaccination, then you have no choice but to homeschool your kid. That is the way the law is written. And that is what it is.
Richard: In our state and a few other states, but most states have exemptions, still.
Wayne Clark: Correct, most states do have exemptions for that. I don’t know if that’s something that a first year delegate should attack. So, I’ll leave my answer to the way it is…
Wayne Clark: There’s no doubt that there is an unbalance between the administrative and the numbers of students in many of the counties throughout the state. West Virginia is one of the highest states in the country to educate kids, we spend nearly $12000 per student to educate them. That’s a lot of money, and there’s a lot of positions that, and I don’t want anybody to lose their job or anything like that, but there’s a lot of positions that we need to really look in the budget and say, Okay, do we need this? Do we need this position? My wife’s a teacher and she teaches in Loudon County, and she wanted to come over to Jefferson County. But our family just can’t take that hit from the difference in Loudon County to Jefferson County in salary. And until Jefferson County can figure out a way to balance that difference, many of our teachers are going to travel out of state. And $250,000 in raises back in June for the administrative. We could have put every teacher in Jefferson County, we could have given them a $500 COVID bonus. It would not have made a huge difference to their financials, but it would help some.
Richard: I read today that they’re doing that but that they are using the CARES money, I don’t know how they figured that out. I think a lot of it is deceptive because people are saying, and some teachers have commented on my editorial, that, Oh, we’ll be cut a lot because of the excess levy if it’s not passed. But something like 2%, 2%, not 20%, 2% of that excess levy goes to teacher and service personnel salaries. So just a lot, a lot, a lot of waste, a lot of administrative bloat. If taxpayers kept their money and if the school wants a librarian and the state doesn’t pay for it, the parents would have $500 each in their pocket and fund it themselves.
Wayne Clark: You look at some other states that are around us, Pennsylvania is a prime example, your property tax stays in the county and funds schools. So each county has its own funding program. West Virginia forever, it’s all state funded. Everything goes down to Kanawha County, goes down to the capital and then it’s distributed out. When you look at the median income, individual median income for the state of West Virginia, you’re somewhere just at 40,000. Well, in some counties where the median income is 32, your teachers are making 42, but then you look at some of your counties where the median income is in the 50s and 60s and 70s, like Jefferson County, and they’re only making 42, 47 with locality and bonuses and all the other, but it should be more of a county-based, not a state based.
Richard: I would like to see if the school board wants to argue strongly for the Levy, I would like to see them make a clear breakdown. Honestly, I think they’re afraid to because people would see, oh, we spent, I don’t know the exact figure. 13 million for the administration, or whatever is. Five million. Oh, we only gave the teachers one million and I don’t know, it’s totally unclear. It says, okay, the levy is for $17 million plus for salaries. Well, that’s not good enough. Whose salaries? How much? That’s not appropriate. I don’t feel that’s an appropriate way to be accountable to taxpayers. And also they spend almost a million dollars for this EPIC place, which is some kind of inter-county organization. And they also pay the lawyer from that, Ms. Sutton. It’s impossible to know how much they spend on the lawyer. That’s a lot of money to give that organization a million dollars, which includes a lawyer, so they’ve obfuscated that, because the lawyer position is open. There are just so many things. If it was your personal money, would you just give it to somebody like, Okay, here’s $10000 and they don’t even account for it? I’m sorry. That’s just not right.
Wayne Clark: I’ve got so many things I could do with $10000, and not just give it away.
Richard: It’s huge, it’s 40% increase, the excess levy. The school bond would increase it even more. But the excess levy increases the Property tax 40%. So that’s, on a $225,000 house, for renters. It would be like $100 per month assuming the landlord will pass that on and for home owners $50 per month. That’s a lot.
Wayne Clark: That is.
Richard: With the education overall, I know that we had an education choice bill. I think Senator Rucker worked on that a lot. There are now a few, I don’t know that there’s any in the works, but something like three charter schools are authorized, or is it five, which isn’t a lot, but are you for more school choice or do you like the system as is now, where everything goes to public education pretty much?
Wayne Clark: Well. I grew up in Baltimore, and I chose to go to a different high school than my brother and my family. Because of the curriculum that they had. And school choice, and… Yes, Baltimore city schools are really, really bad. But some of them are really, really good. School choice can help. And what have we done in the last 15 years to improve anything? Has anything worked? Let’s let charter schools go, see if they work. And at least we have something. So I agree with school choice, I agree with the charter schools, it’s only three, let’s see how they work, give us a five-ten year process to see how they work before we start going crazy and building charter schools all through the state. And you see if the test scores go up, see if our kids are more proficient. More kids are earning their promise scholarships, are going out of state to major universities, that kind of stuff. Let’s see what happens with it.
Richard: I think more choice is good or if parents want to choose to homeschool or hire teachers on small groups, I forget… I don’t know what the technical name is, I guess it’s a part of home schooling, sometimes they hire a teacher to teach physics or something. Well, that’s their choice. Right now, that’s not funded, but I think those kind of things, some of those king of things almost passed. Choice is good. I think that’s good. I think we should have different choices.
And on the pro-life issue I want to mention that our organization deals with sexual health education. I think that’s more at the county level, but what the policy is, but I think also regarding that issue of life, if you take it a step back, it’s good to encourage school age youth not to have sex before marriage. In my experience, I work with that issue in our non-profit, can be very contentious. But, I believe that should be the standard for school age children. Do you have any opinion about that?
Wayne Clark: Well, as a father of three girls, I’m trying to teach them that very concept, and that kind of teaching starts at home, and should be reiterated in school, but it’s got to start at home. The parents need to be teaching that as a basis and the reasons why abstinence at a young age is important and having it reiterated in school, yes. But it’s not the school’s main and responsibility, it’s the parent’s responsibility.
Richard: Pretty much every county and jurisdiction has some kind of AIDS prevention education, so those topics inevitably come up.
Wayne Clark: Right.
Richard: Are there any other issues you’d like to address or any closing statement about why the voters should vote for you.
Wayne Clark: The thing about myself is, I’m a common sense guy. I’m going to do what’s going to be best for Jefferson County, I am going to do what’s best for the state of West Virginia. And I’m not someone who going to get pushed around. When I make my decision, my decision is what it is. I stand behind my decision, obviously, yes, someone can have a constructive conversation with me to change my opinion, and providing they have factual backing for that, correct, but I’m going to stay strong with my convictions in regards to what the state needs, what Jefferson County needs and what our kids need. One of the important things to understand is that any decisions that we make now are going to affect those in the future. And we need to make sure that we’re making the right decisions now, so that the state continues to grow and the county continues to grow and improve. And I’ll leave it at that. I hope I get everybody’s vote on November 3rd, Wayne Clark, House of Delegates, District 65.
Recently, without any public discussion or notification, and in the midst of the economic hardships of the Corona Virus, the Jefferson County Board of Education voted school officials an annual salary increase of $310,000. This increase is tied to percentage of total salary, and will continue to reap benefits for school administrative staff for years to come. This increase was also voted in at the last meeting before new school board member Donna Joy took her seat on July 1st, 2020.
Now, we the voters of Jefferson County are asked to renew this wasteful and expensive tax, which more than doubles the amount of school tax collected, while increasing overall property tax bills by a whopping 40%. On a rental property valued at $225,000 that means a monthly increase of property taxes of $103, or $1239 per year. That means renters will pay over $100 per month extra for rent that their landlord will pass along to them. Similarly, homeowners will also pay over $50 per month extra.
The Board of Education has apparently come to consider these funds as an entitlement. Voters have to hire a detective to figure out where the funds went. It took some three months for the Spirit of Jefferson newspaper to get the information needed to calculate for themselves how much salary increase each of 38 administrative employees got. The highest amount was $20,755 annual increase, with the average annual increase being $9207.
Only about two percent of the excess levy goes toward increasing teacher and service personnel salary. Due to lack of transparency, it is impossible to readily ascertain how much is spent on additional non-teacher positions, like librarians, and how much is paid for the bloated administrative staff, now at 38 positions to administer 1280 school personnel and 8900 students. In contrast, the much larger Kanawha County school system serves 25,373 students and has 47 administrators!
Another example is the lack of transparency into what the legal expenses of the Jefferson County School System are. No invoices detail how much is paid for legal services. In fiscal 2019, $997,678 were paid to EPIC, an inter-county organization that provides support services for schools. However, the invoices do not say what the expenditures were for. One of the services provided by EPIC is the services of attorney Laura Sutton, although that is not one of the stated services listed on their website.
Also, don’t forget the $140,000 the Board of Education foolishly spent (that we know of) trying to condemn the Rockwool property after it changed its mind about the Rockwool plant due to public outcry.
On a closing note, teachers in Jefferson County earn an average of $50, 327 and are contracted to work 200 days (40 weeks) per year. As I mentioned above, only some 2 percent of this pay comes from the excess levy mega tax. Much of the tax goes toward the bloated administration, excessive legal expenses and who knows what else. And due to a lack of transparency, we won’t know what else.
In 2015, less that 14 percent of registered voters voted in favor of the excess levy mega tax, saddling all county property owners with the huge mega tax. Be sure to vote on November 3rd, and vote “AGAINST THE LEVY” on the school excess levy mega tax. Also vote “NO (AGAINST THE BOND ISSUE) on the school bond issue, which will increase taxes even further. The Jefferson County School Board cannot be trusted for a transparent accounting of your tax dollars and the above examples show how your tax dollars are being spent wastefully.
Elliot Simon: Great, thank you very much for having me here, Richard, and it’s a pleasure. I am indeed running in 67th against John Doyle, he’s been in office for a very, very long time, and I really do think it’d be time for a change. I ran against him 10 years ago, unsuccessfully I might add. And I really think that times are a bit different these days. Been in my house here for 19 years, and I’ve been involved in the community quite a bit. I’m retired, I was in the transportation business, and I did logistics consulting, and IT consulting, and now I’m so busy, I don’t even know how I ever had time for a job…
Richard: I know what you mean.
Elliott Simon: I serve on the executive committee of the local GOP. I’m on the Board of Governors of the Eastern Panhandle Business Association, and I’m the chair of the Jefferson County Emergency Services Agency. So it keeps me pretty busy. And now I’ve been appointed by the Committee to run against John Doyle, and I’m very excited about it.
Richard: I think it’s an exciting race, too. I’ve talked to Mr. Doyle. I have some passions. I met him to chat over some of those. I’m sure we’ll be discussing them. So what do you think is the most important issue facing West Virginia right now?
Elliot Simon: It’s kind of multi-pronged. I was very excited about the progress that we’ve made in terms of getting our economy, which has been a perennial loser for all these years. There was a sea change in the state politics five or six years ago. Actually in 2014, there was a changeover in both houses, and it was finally an opportunity to actually change things and to re-direct policy and to turn our economy around and it was successful. And West Virginia was on the rise and was on the upswing. And our economy, actually in 2017, fastest growing economy in the entire country., We’ve been hit with a bit of a road block with this COVID 19, coronavirus is really how I refer to it. It’s been a problem. I would like to see how we can get our economy back on track and continue the progress that we were enjoying until then.
Richard: With the current mask mandate, and social distancing mandate for stores and places of business, has the governor overstepped his bounds? Of course, we had the different decrees or mandates; stay safer at home. Or do you think he’s doing a pretty good job?
Elliot Simon: He’s trying to walk a very fine line, and it’s a very difficult thing to do. There’s some things he’s done right and there’s some things he’s done wrong. On a matter of general principle, it’s never okay, and it’s never justified and the government just doesn’t even have the authority to tell a business that they have to be closed for a reason that is not sure. This is not a war-time situation, this is a pandemic. And in fact, some people are wondering if it actually fits the definition of a pandemic.
Richard: I totally know what you mean. I’ve been writing on that in my blog too. I saw on your blog, for instance, you were listing the revised death rates like about 0 for under 20 and so on, so I know what you’re saying.
Elliot Simon: So one of the things that he has done recently is that his most recent orders, and it’s not so recent, it’s actually a couple of months ago, where he said that when social distancing is not feasible, wear a mask. But they also acknowledge, he acknowledged, that that’s not enforceable. The problem was picking winners and losers at the beginning as to what’s an essential business and what is not an essential business. The government should never be doing that. But that said, if you’re going to be in a situation where you cannot social distance and you do not trust the environment that you are in where the mask. But don’t wear it for very long. And when you leave and your outdoors, take the mask off. It’s really not that good for you. It traps all that stuff inside of you. It’s actually not good for your immune system. But if a business says that you should wear the mask while you’re in their business, do so, but again, when you get out. I see people jogging and riding bicycles with masks on.
Richard: I hear you. I agree with you on that. As a delegate, will you rewrite the rules, so to speak? Right now, correct me if I’m wrong, there isn’t any time limit on these emergency powers, and they’re defined vaguely in the Code, West Virginia Code. Would you fix that? As a delegate, like make a 30-day limit, so the legislature will come back? And also I have to add one other thing before I turn it over, is that I’m kind of baffled, why hasn’t the legislature come back? Are they afraid to go against Mr. Justice, because they’re mostly Republicans or what’s going on?
Elliot Simon: It’s funny because when he was elected, he was a Democrat. He’s now Republican. It’s an interesting dynamic in and of itself. But the legislature is, I think, in the upcoming session going to address the code that gives the governor, the emergency powers. And you’re right, it should be for a limited period of time, should be for, and I think you’re saying 30 days, I think that’s probably a good period of time. And then after that, it should be up to legislative review. Come in and we’ll do a special session, and I think the legislature is going to look at this in the upcoming session. You’re right.
Richard: I understand what you’re saying, that you would be definitely in favor of putting in place that kind of clear law, where it says 30 days and we’ll have to review. The legislature will have to come to session. Not like now where they have to get, I think it is, what is it? Three-fifths of the legislature or something, but automatically they will come back. Would you say that’s right?
Elliot Simon: Well, you never know what the legislature is going to do or going to get done, and it’s also subject to; I mean the governor could veto a bill that the legislature puts through. But from people that I’ve talked to, the legislature is clearly concerned. There’s some that I’ve spoken to that are concerned and that nobody should have unlimited power, so that’s something to adjust.
Richard: I saw on your blog, the ghost of Jefferson blog, you’re talking about how the Rockwool plant came to be, in the sense about the laws about annexation and so on. Do you want to say anything along those lines or about that issue?
Elliot Simon: In fact, I’m glad you asked, because that’s the Hegelian dialectic almost, at work. So I create a problem, and also then you propose the solution. And that’s sort of like wash, rinse, repeat. One of the things that’s at work here, a general philosophy of government interference in local ordinances, laws. Specifically, it was the zoning. And back in 2001, SB 202 was proposed by then Senator Herb Snyder, supported by John Unger, who’s still in the Senate, and also John Doyle. Well, who I’m running against. And what this did was gave municipalities the authority to annex land to expand the boundaries of their municipality. And so it was called annexation without election. And what it allowed was what they called a minor boundary adjustment. And so the visible result of that legislation was that Charles Town annexed along 340, they went out for several miles, and they grabbed a piece of land that the Sheetz and the Aldi now are on. And the Tractor Supply Store. And there’s also a subdivision there with some townhouses. And people started getting concerned about the fact that Charles Town had defeated the county zoning and the Charles Town zoning took precedence. And unbeknownst to anybody else, while this was going on, Ranson annexed the land that Rockwool was on.
So that happened in 2004, so they proposed to do a fix on that, so in 2009, they said, Okay, no more of these pipe stem annexations. And there was legislation passed that created an urban boundary, an urban growth boundary around those pipe stems and gave the municipalities even more power to annex land. And it wasn’t a fix. And it wasn’t until Senator Rucker introduced legislation in the last session that ended this practice that the problem was solved.
Richard: Is this partially a tax grab? Why did the cities want more land so they can get taxes or Charles Town has a 1% extra tax on sales and also I guess on the property tax, or what’s the motivation behind it?
Elliot Simon: There’s a lot of reasons why any government is going to try and annex land and grow bigger. You’re growing your town and by growing your town, you’re growing the authority of the government, yes. And you are increasing your tax base. So there’s a lot of reasons for it. And it’s an interesting thing is that this is an ongoing battle between the municipality and the county commission association across the state of West Virginia. So there’s sort of like this rivalry between the two levels of government. Because I think that people on the left like cities and they like urban settings, because generally you’ll wind up with city councils that are more liberal and more left leaning. I think partially motivates these kinds of bills. So the result is, is that all of a sudden they throw up their hands and they say, ‘Well, how can this happen, how can Rockwool come here? Well, it’s because of your policies and then because of your leanings and your biases. And the Municipal League is constantly trying to take jurisdiction away from county governments, which have a more rural leaning to them and to give it to the municipalities.
Richard: One thing that I’ve been working on, and actually, this was an issue and that I met with Mr. Doyle about, is the issue of health freedom and/ or vaccination choice. The fact that, as you know, in our state, basically we have a no vaccine, no school policy. And no exemptions. Except extremely hard to get medical exemptions. The question is, would you support allowing parents to have religious and conscientious exemptions: to have their own choice about whether their children, or in work situations, even themselves, would get vaccines?
Elliot Simon: You know, it’s interesting, Richard, there’s on the left, they’re always talking about my body, my choice. Well, you own your own body, and I believe, yes, there should be exemptions because… And especially look at what’s happening now with this Coronavirus. They’re rushing to market the vaccine that is not going to go through the normal testing process.
Richard: I can give a story about that one, so called normal, which isn’t very normal, but go ahead.
Elliot Simon: That’s a big concern to a lot of people. And if you’re going to be injecting chemicals into your body, you really need to know that they are going to be safe. And frankly, since 1986, which is when the legislation as signed into law by then Ronald Reagan. The pharmaceutical companies aren’t subject to the same liability laws that other companies and other industries are. And we really do need to look at that as well.
Richard: Your opponent has stated to me clearly, in case it’s not on record elsewhere, that he is not for removing any of these mandates for vaccinations, so that’s a clear difference between you, on that point.
Elliot Simon: Right, I really do think that a person owns their own body, the government does not own your body. And I’ve also read now that there are studies that show that herd immunity only works when it happens naturally. Look at this Coronavirus. Sweden has achieved herd immunity against the virus by essentially doing nothing. And so I think we really do need to look at the way other people and other governments have handled this situation. And sometimes the best thing to do is to do nothing.
Richard: I’m with you on that. The whole thing, that’s part of reason I was asking about Governor Justice. I mean, the whole thing with the schools and these different red, yellow and green zones, and literally, if there’s like, Okay, it’s like a very few cases three cases [3 thousandths of one percent, or.003% with COVID], some random number that might not be the right number, a very small number, then schools have to close or there’s going to be on some kind of alert. I think it’s totally the wrong approach. Like you said, I mean, it’s a virus. It’s like the flu. Can you imagine? I mean, it’s almost like by this logic, we should shut down everything because there’s a bad flu season, which there was two years ago, and it doesn’t make any sense. Where is Governor Justice getting his advice? It’s wrong in my opinion.
Elliot Simon: There are some estimates that there could be tens of millions of people that die if the world goes into a global recession. If the response to the coronavirus throws the world into a global recession then millions of people will die, will starve. In fact, because of the lockdowns, there’s been a spike in suicide rates, drug abuse, domestic violence, sometimes we need to look at the fact that sometimes we don’t see the unintended consequences of our actions, and so sometimes we should try and think things through a little better.
Richard: I’m with you on that. Well, I don’t think it should be a Democrat-Republican issue, but it seems like sometimes Democrats are using it as a weapon, and then the Republicans sometimes… I’m very frustrated about the response in our state in general.
Elliot Simon: I’m biased in that regard. It’s funny, I’ll confess something here to you, Richard, I was a Democrat for most of my life, and it wasn’t until about 15 years ago that I realized that that party had left me. And the values that I see coming from the left, the Defund the police, and some of the things that are happening on college campuses. And the violence and the riots. I was early, and I’m proud of the fact that I was early about leaving that party, and there’s a tremendous walk away movement happening now because people are just, frankly fed up.
Richard: Yeah, I hear what you’re saying on that. On another issue yet, where do you stand on the issue of when does life begin?
Elliot Simon: I’ve come around to the view that life begins at conception.
Richard: Our nonprofit deals with teaching youth to stay abstinent before marriages. I have been involved with that many years. So a corollary question, and I know it’s not the primary role of government to teach sexual health, but, I believe in West Virginia and virtually every state they do teach so-called HIV AIDS prevention, which inevitably means you do have to talk about sexual health, which inevitably means there’s got to be some focus for it. So the short question is, would, or do you support teaching that school age youth should be abstinent before marriage, that that’s the preferred standard.
Elliott Simon: Well, mores in terms of how we live our live from a moral standpoint, really that needs to come from the home. Parents need to teach their kids the difference between right and wrong. If you’re going to teach biology, fine. There should be a certain moral component and an ethics component, and of course in schools, schools for kids, until a child reaches the age of consent, of course, schools should be promoting and recommending and teaching abstinence. Once a child grows up and becomes an adult, then they can make their own decisions.
Richard: What are some other points, or there are some other points of your platform, you know that we haven’t touched on, you’d like to emphasize; how you differentiate from Mr. Doyle and why the voters should vote for you?
Elliott Simon: Mr. Doyle, he’s kind of a maverick, even within his own party. John has said on many occasions that he aligns more with the Mountain Party then he does with the Democrat party. And that’s pretty far left. And yet at a forum that I appeared at with him, he said that he does not support the Green New Deal, but he supports the Mountain Party, which supports the Green New Deal. So I get really ____ sometimes. Recently, he was the only legislator to vote against not taxing Social Security benefits, so it passed, everybody in both houses voted for this legislation, and he didn’t. And his response was that he thinks that the state needs the money more than somebody on social security. Also with all of the riots thank goodness has on around the country, people’s safety and the safety of their homes and their property and their kids and all of that; West Virginia thank goodness has something called the Castle Doctrine. And the Castle Doctrine says that you are within your rights to use whatever force is necessary to defend yourself, your family and your home. And that passed in 2008 in the legislature. It passed 34 to nothing in the Senate and 97 to 1 in the House, of course, John Doyle was the one who voted against it. And he said, you have a duty to retreat and he cited British common law. Which, that’s for England. And here in the United States, we have a different ethos and a different way of looking at things. So, those are kind of radical things that I think people don’t realize, how really out there he is. I think that really what we need is some common sense here in the legislature, and I think I can provide that.
Mary Ann Claytor: Well, my name is Mary Ann Claytor, and I’m the Democratic candidate for West Virginia state auditor and happen to be the only candidate running for state auditor that actually has an accounting degree. Twenty two years of experience as a real auditor and have years of experience in governmental accounting. And I’m just so happy that you’ve asked me to come on so that everybody can get to know our candidates.
Richard Urban: Absolutely. So did you work for the State Auditor’s office or where did you get your experience?
Mary Ann Claytor: I worked for the West Virginia State Auditor’s office. I resigned in 2014 because my son became paralyzed from the neck down. I made the decision to take off so that I could take care of him. And during that time though, I started my own business doing financial statements for local governments. But he passed away in January after a long battle. But we were able to take care of him at home. And that’s something I’m very proud that the Lord gave us that ability and the knowledge that we needed under the circumstances, so that we could spend as much quality time as we could, and not have to put them in a facility. That was the main reason I left the Auditor’s Office, because I didn’t want to place him into a Facility.
Richard: Okay, wow, that’s beautiful. You could care for him like that. You mentioned you’ve been an auditor for a while. Do you have other qualifications you want to talk about?
Mary Ann Claytor: I have characteristics that really don’t have anything to do with being an auditor. I’m a preacher. I do prison ministry and nursing home ministry, which I haven’t been able to do at this time. I have a Bachelor of Science and Business Administration with a concentration in accounting. And I have a Master’s degree in religion.
Richard: Those are important things. You need a lot of integrity as auditor, right?
Mary Ann Claytor: Yes, you do.
Richard: I was looking into some of the things preparing for the program about some of the West Virginia programs, like the Mountaineer and the WV Checkbook. Things I hadn’t really paid attention to, which I need to. And also the purchasing card program, I noticed that was on the state and auditor’s site. What’s the purpose of that? Is that a good program? The purchasing card program.
Mary Ann Claytor: So Mr. Gainer, who was the former auditor, he started. So we have the state program, and we also have a local government program, and it has cut down on paperwork because they’re able to make their purchases instead of issuing checks, but you have got to make sure you have controls and you have got to make sure you have oversight in those areas. A part of our fraud section, what they used to do was to do audits of those P-card transactions. We have oversight within the office where they’re just kind of looking at those things, but it’s different than when you actually go out to look at the back up that is associated with a transaction that came through. Because Walmart; you might see a transaction comes through for a Walmart. Well, that may be an okay transaction, maybe they had to get some supplies or something, but if you actually go and you look at the invoice, then you would see that oh, they didn’t really buy supplies, they bought something else. So you still need those eyes on actual supporting documentation. I haven’t been able to find, since I left, on the website, we used to always post those audits of those P-card transactions online. I’m a type of person that I won’t say, Oh, this is definitely not been done, and I’m not attacking. I have to look at myself in the mirror. I lay out the facts and deficiencies. That’s the type of person that I am. And that’s the way I run my campaign. That’s the way that I would like to see everybody across West Virginia, United States, run their campaign. So we can really talk about the issues and talk about deficiencies that are going on in our government. But I’m not attacking a person’s character.
Richard: With the purchasing card, or you call it a P-card, are you saying that if you use the check system, then they would automatically see the invoice or not necessarily, whereas with a purchasing card, you might just see, Oh, Walmart $200 or… That’s not true? Is there more detail with the old system or is something lacking with the new system, or what?
Mary Ann Claytor: As far as transparency and knowing what people spent money for and actually seeing an invoice, we are still lacking in that. And that is something that I would like to institute. We shouldn’t have to have our citizens do FOIAs to see what an actual expenditure consisted of, other than, you can see the description. And plus, we spent hundreds of millions of dollars on the West Virginia Oasis program, and we need to hold those companies accountable for products that our citizens are purchasing. Because this is what we have to realize as citizens. It is that we are purchasing these products, even though we haven’t gave the approval for purchasing these products, but it is our money, so we have a right to know. So one of the things I would like to do within the West Virginia OASIS is try to combine some of the attributes of the Checkbook with the OASIS, because it is better if we have centralized accounting systems and that we are able to use the source information system to the best of its ability instead of extracting data and putting it into another program for people to see.
Richard: It sounds like that’s what the Checkbook thing is, right?
Mary Ann Claytor: Yes, it kind of extracts the data.
Richard: What is the OASIS?
Mary Ann Claytor: I was already gone when they really got it going. Some people may have known, before we had this Vista program where you can go and look up the expenditures, and then they decided, we had all these different financial accounting systems that different organization agencies were using, so they decided they wanted to do something centralized, which I believe is a positive move. We just need to go further with it and making it more transparent…
Richard: I was reading up about the Mountaineer and the WV Checkbook. One thing I noticed, because I’m interested in local issues, I’m over here in Jefferson County. And they’re not yet on this system. The county says it’s “awaiting data” for the Checkbook program [on the website]. Do you know anything about that? I see 12 counties are online and the rest aren’t. It says Jefferson County is “awaiting data”. Can you give us any insight into what that means?
Mary Ann Claytor: And I would have taken a different approach on this too. So your information is only, the transparency that we’re seeing from local governments, it’s only as good as the accounting records that are underneath. And like I had told you before, everybody has their own accounting system in local governments. I’m not for sure in Jefferson, if they have CSSI, which is a company or our Software Systems. But mainly there’s those two primary ones. I would have probably taken taking a different approach in working with those software companies to say, ‘This is something that we would like to do, so that entities can put their information out on their websites. The West Virginia Association of Counties set up a basic website for each county, also, for those who don’t have that. It just had some basic information, contact information, but most counties that can’t afford a website, they have a website that they’re active with, and also they’re required to publish financial statements with the vendor information, so we already have some transparency at that level. It’s extra work for the county clerks to extract this data out of their system in order for them to upload that into the Mountaineer Checkbook. So that may be the issue that they’re having. Some decided that they left it up to their county clerks, where in a lot of places, they are already low on staff, so you’re thinking, Okay, anybody that wants this information, they will give it to them. And with West Virginia, everybody doesn’t have internet, so everybody’s not going to be able to access it anyway. That’s why they publish them in the newspapers that the local people generally use, so that they can see that information…
Richard: I looked at Berkley County, which is online, and I couldn’t find the Board of Education, is that a whole different thing than the county?
Mary Ann Claytor: That’s a separate entity. The Board of Education as their own system too. And the thing about the Board of Education is all Boards of Educations have the same system. So, in that capacity, we could have worked with them to develop something where they could publish online if we want it to be online.
Richard: So is there any plan to get that into the Checkbook or that’s just excluded, the Board of Education?
Mary Ann Claytor: So it’s up to each entity to provide that information. So people would have to talk to them. And like I said, I don’t know if it’s such a big concern for our citizens, I really don’t, because if you’re local to that area, you understand, every year they see that they’ve published the vendors….
Richard: As auditor, how would you encourage being less wasteful? One thing, someone was telling me, who is in the federal government, that he works in the patent office. Say they had a budget. Say it was $20 million and then the fiscal year is ending. He said, Well, you know, if they find out, Oh gosh, we’ve got $3 million left, instead of saying, Oh hey, why don’t we cut our budget $3 million, they’ll try to use it up for something, I mean, not maybe illegal, but it seems to be wasteful. How would you encourage, when the right thing to do, would be to say, oh gosh, we could save the taxpayers $3 million. Hey, we’ll tell them, we don’t need so much money next year. But apparently what happens, he tells me, and you would know this better, being auditor, they try to use it up or something so they’ll get the same amount next year. Could you talk about that kind of thing?
Mary Ann Claytor: Yes, they have a mindset, ‘But if I don’t spend it, that they’re not going to give it back to me next year. Yes, I’ve seen people, buy a whole bunch of pens and pencils, and it’s not illegal. I have always been a type of person when I audited, I would ask questions about things that I thought were unusual. Because it’s hard, everybody has a different definition of waste. So the auditor really doesn’t have power to stop waste in a sense of saying, ‘you can’t buy that’. Now, what they can do is shed a light. And that’s basically what we do. And so, as your next auditor, one of the approaches that I would take at the state level is a lot of times we don’t hear about things until something gets leaked. I think it’s the auditor’s responsibility, that if there is something that comes up a little extravagant, maybe not, don’t nitpick about things, but if it’s something that is like the couch thing.
Richard: Oh yeah, the Supreme Court justices, right.
Mary Ann Claytor: So things like that, I feel like we need to let the public be aware and leave it up to the public to have the outcry that we need to do, to get the changes made. Because I always told people when I was auditing, I would ask the question. So they were a little more wary about making certain purchases because I was asking and I would always say, ‘If you do not feel comfortable going in front of a public meeting and asking to purchase these items, let that be your litmus test to not purchase it or to purchase it’. If you feel comfortable that everybody is going to know about this purchase, then make it. But our hands are tied by the laws and regulations of the state of West Virginia and Federal, as far as our stopping a payment. You see, and this is one thing I will tell you, I will not lie to anybody to get their vote, to let them think that I have more power than I have to be able to stop a purchase, because the purchase is legal. Extravagant, yes. But it’s legal.
Richard: So more transparency would be, I think what you’re saying. ‘Hey, somebody purchased the couch for $20,000 the last week of the fiscal year or whatever, you know.
Mary Ann Claytor: We as citizens, we have the power. They may want to make us believe that we don’t, but we have the power through our votes and through our voices throughout the year because we tend to… I don’t know, we are also busy with our lives and the things that are going on our lives that we don’t always pay attention. But we have got to get to the point that we do pay more attention and try to get more involved in what’s going on in our government, so that we can stop it before it gets too out of hand.
Richard: I think so. I think this whole, like here, that’s a huge issue, the school tax thing, it was passed in December five years ago, like less than 2000 people [actually 4585] voted for this mega-tax, and it literally jacks up your property tax 40 percent. Say I owe to $1000 in property tax. Well, now, because of the school excess levy tax it’s almost $1700. So this year though, a lot of people will be voting, it will be on the November ballot. But I think that exemplifies the point, a lot of people were asleep at the wheel when that thing went through, but I think now they’re probably more awake with a huge tax bills we’ve been getting here in property tax in Jefferson County.
Mary Ann Claytor: Well, it’s the same thing with the road bond, because that was a very… I can’t remember the numbers, but it was very low voter turnout [122,419 votes statewide, total]. That’s what people have to understand, that you’re letting a small number of people determine the outcome of governments by your staying home and not voting. I wasn’t really for the road bond because I’m not for taxation that increases to our most vulnerable population, because the workers, they had to pay more, because West Virginia, our demographics, it’s different than other places. So, you have people that are making minimum wage, barely able to take care of their families, and now you’ve got to pay more to get to work. And then we saw, it was supposed to be at lightning speed. We need this bond so that we can get the roads fixed at lightning speed. And then we didn’t get lightning speed. And we’re using COVID money for that, which is suspect. Not really that we’re using the Bond money.
Richard: COVID money for what are you referring to?
Mary Ann Claytor: The governor decided, we have some COVID highways, and so he’s going to use the Cares Act money to fix the roads, which he’s already started in Greenbrier County.
Richard: Oh, Greenbrier! What a coincidence. With his resort there.
Mary Ann Claytor: When the band went through, he was a Democrat at that time, and I spoke out because I said, I’m not for regressive taxes, wand that’s what people need to know about me is that I’m not just talking about this COVID money because I’m a Democrat, and he’s now a Republican. I would have talked about it anyway. Because that’s the type of person I am. I don’t care who’s in power, wrong is wrong. Right is right, no matter who it is. Because I’m getting a little tired of we’re silent when it’s on our team, and we’re vocal when it’s not on our team…
Mary Ann Claytor: The auditor is the official bookkeeper for West Virginia and also the supervisor of public offices, and in that capacity, in the state level is where we are responsible for the expenditures that go out, making sure, they’re in compliance. And then the local governments, we’re responsible for audits of those local governments. So when we were talking about the School Board, County Commissions, all the elected officials within those offices. And we’re also responsible for approving the budgets of local governments. We have a lot more duties that we do in regards to local governments than we actually do with the state level, and currently the audits are further behind under the current auditor. When you compare when the former auditor went out, if you just look at the county government, it was 11% behind in 2016. If you look at 2014, he was about 11% behind. He always had a problem with the municipalities though. But with the current auditor, it is now about 45% behind in that one category.
Richard: The category being counties?
Mary Ann Claytor: In 2018, yes. And so if you look at the 2018, so we need to be able to get in there and get those audits done. I’m more proactive than I believe he is. And that’s the difference I want people to understand, because one of my goals is that I will have visited with, on my first four years, each entity that we audit to assess accounting needs. Because, getting full transparency, that’s only as good as the underlying records. So we to be able to go in there and talk to the entities based on the resources that they have available, so we can get everybody’s books up to par. And my having the knowledge that I have, I won’t have to send staff in to do that. I will be able to assess those needs and talk to people and understand what they’re talking about. I think that’s the big thing, is not to have to have somebody sitting beside you, as a staff member, because you don’t understand the Accounting Information, which is something that I’ve garnered over through my education and through all the experience that I have. And so that’s one of the main reasons that I’m running for auditor. Because it’s about fixing the things that I know that need to be improved so that we all can work efficiently for the citizens, because that is what it’s about. I’m a citizen.
Just because you run for office doesn’t make you no longer be a citizen and have concerns. And that people would be able to talk to me, express their concerns, and I’m the type of person that will follow up on the concerns of the citizens. Because it’s not about getting elected in the next four years, it’s about improving, and if you do a good job, that’s when we should re-elect people, when they do a good job, not just based on other issues. That’s just the way I feel.