04 January 2008

W.Va.'s Stickler Back In at MSHA - Updated

The White House announced Friday that President Bush intends to designate Richard Stickler as acting assistant secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health.

Stickler, a West Virginia native, had held a recess appointment to that post. But that expired Dec. 31 as his MSHA bio page notes.

Update: The Associated Press clarifies the situation. "Stickler could have been limited to a 210-day stay starting from Bush's designation Friday," AP reports. "But since his latest nomination is still pending in the Senate, the White House says, the time limit does not apply and Stickler will likely serve until the end of the Bush administration."

The Democratic-controlled Senate has so far refused to approve his nomination, AP also noted.

The Charleston Gazette reported earlier that agency staffer John Pallasch had been named acting assistant secretary, and has a bulletin on the latest development.

"The initial article noted that "it’s not clear how long Pallasch will be running the $340 million agency or if President Bush plans to submit a different nominee to Congress."

"Amy Louviere, an MSHA spokeswoman, declined to answer such questions. Louviere referred a reporter to David James, the top spokesman for Labor Secretary Elaine Chao," the article said. "James did not return repeated phone calls. In an e-mail response, James said that, under the federal Vacancies Act, Pallasch took over immediately upon Stickler's departure. James did not elaborate on what Chao's plans are for MSHA leadership through the rest of Bush's term."

Iowa & W.Va. (Updated)

Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., raised about $2,300 from West Virginians before dropping out of the Democratic race for president, according to the most recent Federal Election Commission filings.

The other departing Democrat, Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut, had received a $20 donation from the Mountain State that was then refunded.

All told, West Virginians contributed more than $584,000 to presidential contenders by the end of September. Figures from the final quarter of 2007 are expected later this month.

Of Iowa's winners, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., has attracted nearly $23,000 from the state. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee has received $100 for his GOP bid.

Huckabee also has 144 delegates pledged to him for the Republican Party's state convention, the latest roster shows. With counties deciding contested at-large seats this month, Huckabee can count on at least 28 delegates for Feb. 5.

W.Va.'s Stickler Out at MSHA

West Virginia native Richard Stickler is apparently no longer the nation's mine safety chief, The Charleston Gazette reports.

"Earlier this week, Stickler’s biography was removed from the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration’s Web site," the article said. "And on Thursday, MSHA officials revealed that agency staffer John Pallasch had been named to Stickler’s job — assistant labor secretary for mine safety and health — on an acting basis."

The article also observes that Stickler's presidential appointment as head of MSHA expired Monday, "and the Democratic-controlled Senate had refused to approve a renomination proposed by Bush."

W.Va. Sticking With E-Voting Machines

West Virginia will not follow the lead of other states and decertify its electronic voting machines, The Associated Press reports.

The Secretary of State's office affirmed its reliance on the devices "just weeks after top officials in Ohio and Colorado declared such machines unfit for elections," the AP article said. "Thirty-four West Virginia counties use Election Systems and Software's iVotronic touch-screen machines."

The article also notes that "There are no documented cases of actual election tampering involving electronic voting machines across the United States. But in tests, researchers in Ohio and Colorado found they could be corrupted with magnets or Treos and other similar handheld devices."

03 January 2008

HeatherGate Goes National

The Chronicle of Higher Education has picked up on the HeatherGate story (aka DegreeGate, MBA Mystery and Mylan-Manchin-Mike G. Morass).

A subscription is required, but here's the teaser:

"Michael S. Garrison was controversial at West Virginia University even before his arrival in September as president. Now he is linked to a developing scandal that raises questions about the ties between the university and the state's power brokers in politics and business."
Update: As The Associated Press and others have noted, the program at issue is an Executive Master of Business Administration, described by AP as "designed for people who continue to work full time while pursuing a degree, primarily through evening classes."

02 January 2008

HeatherGate Probe Team Picked

Two West Virginia University professors and a state education official will review the school's awarding of an MBA degree to Heather Bresch, a daughter of Gov. Joe Manchin and Mylan Inc.'s chief operating officer.

The Charleston Daily Mail has the story. Roy Nutter, a computer science and electrical engineering professor, and French professor Michael Lastinger will be joined on the panel by Bruce Flack, vice chancellor for academic affairs for the state's Higher Education Policy Commission.

Nutter is on WVU's Faculty Senate, while both he and Lastinger have chaired that body.

"Lastinger was the lone board member to oppose the appointment of Mike Garrison as David Hardesty's replacement" as WVU's president, the Daily Mail reported. "Flack was appointed vice chancellor of the Higher Education Policy Commission in October 2005. Flack had previously held several positions with the commission and was also a professor of history, vice president for academic affairs and interim president at Glenville State College."

The Associated Press also has a version of the story.

AG McGraw Under Fire Over Settlements

Public Broadcasting examines the dual moves by federal officials to withhold Medicaid funds from West Virginia because of Attorney General Darrell McGraw's handling of a pair of related settlements.

"The federal government has a problem with how the settlement money has been spent," the report said. "But McGraw’s office says the federal government has no claim on the money, and the threats to collect are politically motivated."

01 January 2008

Milestones, 2007

  • Mark Coyle, 42, former Statehouse reporter for MetroNews and longtime GOP political operative.
  • Kenneth Ervin, 45, advocate for West Virginians with disabilities.
  • Martha Wehrle, 81, former longtime Kanawha County legislator and Democratic activist.