07 April 2007

20/20 Lets Whittaker Tell His Story

This evening's edition of the ABC News program related the saga of West Virginia's record Powerball jackpot winner, Jack Whittaker. The segment offers the story largely from his perspective and is presented by Martin Bashir, of Living with Michael Jackson fame. Online version includes video clip.

06 April 2007

Who Knew Wisteria Lane Was In West Virginia?

Or in Charleston, for that matter.

Mike Callaghan has become the latest state political figure to see his private life spill onto the public stage.

As the Charleston Daily Mail reports today, Callaghan's estranged wife took to the street outside his law office in an apparent protest stemming from their pending divorce.

(Photo Courtesy of Charleston Daily Mail)

Through his lawyer, Callaghan responded with a statement. "It greatly pains me that our children must endure her public exploitation of our private pain, and I ask for your prayers for my family in this difficult time period," it reads in part.

"The Callaghans have been married for 17 years and have three children, ages 10 to 16," the article said.

Callaghan unsuccessfully challenged U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-2nd, last year. He was previously state Democratic Party chairman, Environmental Protection secretary under then-Gov. Bob Wise and chief criminal prosecutor for southern West Virginia's federal court district.

Callaghan has also been touted as a possible 2008 candidate for state attorney general, as the article notes.

Friday's news comes one day after thrice-divorced state Sen. Vic Spouse, R-Kanawha, announced that he would not run for re-election in 2008. His most recent divorce, and the surrounding circumstances, have also become public fodder.

And then there's former Delegate Jon Amores, D-Kanawha, whose divorce made the news before he quit the Legislature to take a post in the state Commerce Department.

In a recent column in The Charleston Gazette, Phil Kabler wrote that "It was pretty obvious to everyone at the statehouse that (Amores) was running around with a legislative intern last session, and continues to date her to this day, and presumably, that was a precipitating factor leading up to his divorce."

National Press Picks Up WVU Search Story

The Chronicle of Higher Education has a 440-word online article today (subscription required), with the headline "Critics Say West Virginia U. Presidential Search Was Rigged, Despite Open Process."

It is the national publication's 2nd-most emailed article of the day.

Here's the free teaser:

Some public universities, including the University of Iowa, Indiana University, and the University of Delaware, have been criticized recently for keeping aspects of presidential searches secret. By contrast, West Virginia University has run an exceptionally public presidential search, posting regular updates on its Web site, including the résumés of three finalists, all of whom were scheduled to appear in public forums on the campus.

But the transparency has not helped West Virginia avoid being bashed by critics who say they suspect the search has been rigged."

The article also mentions Thursday's withdrawal of candidate Daniel Bernstine, president of Portland State University, and calls it "a blow to the search process."

05 April 2007

Bernstine Withdraws

As West Virginia University searches for its next president, candidate and Portland State University President Dean Bernstine dropped out of the running late Thursday, The Associated Press reports.

Bernstine concluded "the job was not the right fit for him at this time," AP quotes search committee chairman Steve Goodwin as saying.

"That leaves Kansas State University Provost M. Duane Nellis and Mike Garrison, chief of staff to former Gov. Bob Wise, in the running," the AP article said.

Quote of the Day

"You really are a paradox, because you're a charming guy, and I say that not as a man crush. But you're also deeply flawed, but you know that. You must know that."

-- Hoppy Kercheval, host of MetroNews' Talkline program, to Sen. Vic Sprouse on the Kanawha County Republican's decision not to seek re-election in 2008.

Sprouse Out In '08

Sen. Vic Sprouse, R-Kanawha, will leave the Legislature in 2008, the Charleston Daily Mail reports today.

Sprouse, 38, cites "financial obligations" for his decision not to seek re-election. He operates several fitness clubs.

The former minority leader "said today he has started his own consulting firm and plans to be heavily involved in political campaigns and fundraising," the newspaper reports.

MetroNews also has a story, and Sprouse spoke to Hoppy Kercheval this morning on Talkline.

In the Daily Mail story, Sprouse comments on "attacks on his personal life" as a factor in his decision.

"Considerable controversy has surrounded Sprouse’s recent divorce from Amy McKinley, his third wife, who has publicly accused Sprouse of not helping out enough with the medical bills for their ill son," the newspaper reports.

Such allegations had helped fuel recent speculation about his political future.

On the blog devoted to their son, McKinley posted Wednesday that their divorce is final (the case is sealed in Kanawha County Family Court).

She also recently opined on Sprouse's political situation in an email to Charleston Gazette columnist Phil Kabler.

Sprouse has responded at length to several recent Kabler columns on his personal web site. He also posted about his decision not to seek a fourth Senate term late last night.

Manchin Splits On Judicial Bills

Gov. Joe Manchin had signaled displeasure with the Legislature's decision to add 6 judges to the circuit court system. He followed through Wednesday by vetoing the bill.

But in that veto message, the governor explained why he opted to sign a companion measure increasing the number of family court judges by 10.

That latter bill also redrew boundaries for nine of the system's 26 districts while creating a new one. By shifting caseloads and cutting driving times for judges and staff, lawmakers were able to reduce the number of additional judges needed for the five-year-old family court system.

New family court judges are destined for:

* Wirt, Mason & Jackson (redrawn 5th district);
* Logan;
* Lincoln & Boone (10th district);
* Kanawha;
* McDowell & Mercer (12th district);
* Raleigh, Summers & Wyoming (redrawn 13th district);
* Harrison & Doddridge (redrawn 18th district);
* Monongalia & Preston (redrawn 20th district);
* Berkeley & Jefferson (24th district);
* Webster & Pocahontas (new 27th district).

But the circuit judge bill did not touch boundary lines. Manchin concluded that lawmakers should have similarly reduced the need for more judges as they had in the family court bill.

The vetoed bill would have added circuit judges in Kanawha, Mercer, Mingo, Monongalia, Wayne and the circuit composed of Hampshire, Hardy and Pendleton counties.

Some lawmakers had warned that Manchin would never approve a bill that added too many circuit judges, given the costs involved.

The '08 Money Race Comes to W.Va.

Though his term is not up until 2008, Gov. Joe Manchin has begun raising funds for his next campaign, MetroNews' Hoppy Kercheval observes today.

The “Committee to Re-elect Joe Manchin” collected about $170,000 at a Morgantown event late last year, Kercheval reports, and has a "Friend Raiser" (am I allowed to wince?) set for mid-April at the Charleston Marriott.

Hoppy also relates that Manchin made an appeal to potential donors for the upcoming event at a March 6 gathering at Charleston's Edgewood Country Club. There, "Manchin told a packed house that he’s running for re-election in ’08 and asked for their support."

Manchin's latest campaign finance report, filed Tuesday with the secretary of state, shows a $1.16 million balance. Hoppy's column also reflects that figure.

04 April 2007

WVU President Search: Connecting The Dots

In my article for The Associated Press earlier this week, I alluded to the connections among West Virginia University Board of Governors members, candidate Mike Garrison and others involved in the search for the school's next president.

As one of these figures told me when AP first reported on the letter from Judge Robert B. King, "It's a pretty small state. You can connect the dots pretty easily in West Virginia."

You ain't kidding, brother.

Here's a more detailed look at said dots:

1. WVU Board of Governors

From 2001 to 2003, Garrison was Tax and Revenue secretary and later chief of staff to then-Gov. Bob Wise. At least 9 of the board’s 12 current appointee members (besides 3 representative and 2 ex-officio members) were picked by Wise:

- Curtis H. "Hank" Barnette (appointed 2001, reappointed by Wise in 2004)
- Elizabeth E. "Betty" Chilton (appointed 2001, reappointed by Wise in 2003)
- Stephen B. Farmer (appointed 2004)
- Chairman Stephen P. Goodwin (appointed 2002)
- Russell L. Isaacs (appointed, 2003)
- Douglas J. Leech (reappointed, 2003)
- John T. "Ted" Mattern (appointed 2002*)
- Parry G. Petroplus (appointed 2002)
- Robert A. Wells (appointed 2004)

But… Wise appointed Farmer and Wells after Garrison left his administration. Wise also replaced Mattern on the board before leaving office; Gov. Joe Manchin has since reappointed him.

And...classified staff representative Paul R. Martinelli also held that slot when Wise appointed the original board in 2001.

Also...Wise's 2001 appointees were all from WVU's Board of Advisors. Serving solely in the capacity suggested by its title, this board was replaced by the Board of Governors when the Legislature reconfigured the state's higher education system in 2000.

2. Presidential Search Committee

Of the 6 board members on the committee, 5 were Wise appointees:
- Goodwin (committee chairman)
- Farmer
- Leech
- Mattern
- Wells

But...see above notes regarding Farmer, Mattern and Wells. The committee also includes:

- Dean Mary Ellen Mazey, sister of Judge King;
- Joan Corson Stamp, wife of U.S. District Judge Frederick P. Stamp of the state's northern federal court district;
- Morgantown Mayor Ron Justice, who gave Garrison a key to his city, Public Broadcasting reported;

3. Garrison's clients

Garrison became a lobbyist after leaving the Wise administration in 2003. At one point, he had more clients registered with the state Ethics Commission than any other lobbyist.

Garrison has represented:

- Centra Bank (Leech is president and CEO);
- Mylan Laboratories (Dr. Thomas B. Clark, a board member, was a vice president);
- Platinum Properties (Petroplus is manager).

4. The Goodwins and the Kings

- King, of the 4th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, graduated from WVU's law school in 1968. Goodwin graduated from there in 1970;

- Goodwin's brother Thomas R. Goodwin, is a 1969 WVU law school graduate;

- Goodwin's brother and U.S. District Judge Joseph R. Goodwin, of the state's southern federal court district, got his WVU law degree in 1970;

- King's nephew (and Mazey's son) is deputy general counsel to Gov. Joe Manchin;

- Goodwin's son is general counsel to Manchin.

CAVEAT: These lists are presented solely to inform the ongoing debate. I welcome additions and corrections.

And for the record, I am Wheeling Jesuit '91.

In related news, the school of candidate Daniel Bernstine has gotten some bad news. Inside Higher Ed reports that Portland State University was erroneously included among the Top 1o electrical engineering programs in the latest U.S. News & World Report graduate school guide ("their rankings are actually so low that the magazine doesn’t give them out," the article said).

Bernstine is president of PSU, which had initially (and understandably) heralded the mistaken ranking.

Short Takes

WVU PRESIDENT: Public Broadcasting aired this story about candidate Daniel Bernstine, president of Portland State University, to the Morgantown campus.

MINE SAFETY: Gov. Joe Manchin signed the latest coal mine safety legislation, among other workplace-related bills, The Associated Press reports.

BECKLEY VA: Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., is alleging that administrators at the Beckley VA Medical Center have fed "false information" to federal officials about staffing and conditions there, according to AP. (Public Broadcasting also has the story, with audio that includes an interview with Rockefeller.)

TABLE GAMES: The Ohio County Commission has OK'd the (brief) ballot needed for the special June 9 election for the racetrack table games question, The (Wheeling) Intelligencer reports.

03 April 2007

A Trying Week for WVU

Amid the reported loss of mens basketball coach John Beilein to Michigan (different story here), West Virginia University continues the rocky process of finding its next president.

The Parkersburg News checks in with a local member of the search committee on the tumult that has arisen over the selection process. That article also notes that the state Republican Party chairman, Dr. Doug McKinney, has weighed in on the issue.

The Charleston Daily Mail also hears from McKinney, as well as from Gov. Joe Manchin, who defends the search process and those overseeing it.

MetroNews, meanwhile, has audio from an interview with candidate and Portland State University President Dan Bernstine as it focuses on the ongoing visits by the finalists to the Morgantown campus.

02 April 2007

WVU proceeds with search for next president

I finally got my hands on the letter from federal Judge Robert B. King, for today's story from The Associated Press.

King has raised concerns about the ongoing process to find a new president for West Virginia University. Several of those involved in the search respond in the AP article to the letter.

Both AP and MetroNews note that the three finalists will begin the final phase of the search process today on WVU's Morgantown campus.

The Charleston Daily Mail, meanwhile, looks at the pay and the perks of the job today.

Manchin Has Plans for Tamarack

The Bluefield Daily Telegraph delves into the possible details of Gov. Joe Manchin's proposal to slim down the West Virginia Turnpike's parent agency by having it shed Tamarack and some of its other economic development endeavors.

The Associated Press looked at the topic earlier, as did the Charleston Daily Mail and the Register-Herald of Beckley.

Thompson Speaks

Sorry, not that Thompson.

House Speaker Rick Thompson, D-Wayne, spoke at length to the (Huntington) Herald-Dispatch for a wide-ranging interview published today.

01 April 2007

Table Games Update

With three of West Virginia's four racetrack counties likely to vote June 9 on the casino table games questions, employees at Hancock County's Mountaineer Race Track & Gaming Resort plan to go door-to-door to gather support, the Wheeling newspapers report.

That track is expected to petition its county's commission this week for a special election. The tracks in Kanawha and Ohio counties have already gotten their commissioners to schedule Saturday voting on that date.

The fourth track, Charles Town Races & Slots, meanwhile is polling Jefferson County residents by phone to gauge feelings there, according to The Journal of Martinsburg.

John Finamore, senior vice president of track parent Penn National Gaming Inc., tells that newspaper that initial results have been "very encouraging."

The West Virginia Family Foundation
earlier announced plans to sue to challenge the new law and block the local option elections.