By JOSELYN KING
The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register
WHEELING, W.Va. — Former West Liberty University president Rob Capehart has a new job as lead counsel to the West Virginia Senate Committee on Finance.
Capehart, of Wheeling, previously served as State Secretary of Tax and Revenue, as a chief administrative law judge for the West Virginia Tax Department. He resigned as WLU president in March 2015 amid ethics complaints he utilized school resources to help promote a film he produced.
Since that time, he has been a senior resident fellow with the Public Policy Foundation of West Virginia, and is president of Georgetown Solutions in Wheeling.
Finance Committee Chairman Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, made the announcement of Capehart’s appointment as counsel on Tuesday. He said he reviewed the ethics complaints against Capehart and “found not one to be substantiated.”
“I am quite confident he can bring a tremendous amount of resources to the table,” Blair said. “I am excited about having his knowledge in higher education.”
“When it comes to finances, as a former tax commissioner he understands the state’s tax structure — and I figure he is best in the state. And he understands the state budget. He excels in all three areas…
“He is now an employee of mine. If I would have had any concerns, I wouldn’t have been appointed him.”
Blair described Capehart as exemplary of many West Virginians who come from the private sector, but who now want to give back to the state. He has been a Republican gubernatorial candidate, and served as chairman of the West Virginia Republican Party.
The West Virginia Democrat Party immediately put out a statement Tuesday denouncing Capehart’s appointment.
“It’s truly frightening that being forced to resign from West Liberty University after an ethics complaint about using university resources for personal profit will land you a lead legal job over our state’s finances,” said Belinda Biafore, chairwoman of the West Virginia Democrat Party. “It’s not surprising — especially since we’ve seen nothing but Republican majority and leadership in this state use taxpayer dollars to fund their own lavish lifestyles and personal profit, but it needs to come to a stop. Enough is enough, and West Virginia deserves better. When there is so much at stake for our state they deserve to have leadership, and those in charge of our state’s finances that they can trust.”
Capehart served as Chief Administrative Law Judge for the West Virginia Tax Department from 1985 to 1989, and later as Secretary of Tax and Revenue under Cecil Underwood.
During Capehart’s time as Revenue Secretary, he also was chairman of the Governor’s Commission on Fair Taxation, which reviewed and sought reforms of West Virginia’s tax structure.
Senate Majority Leader Ryan Ferns, R-Ohio, said he discussed the hiring of Capehart with Blair and Senate President Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, prior to Capehart’s appointment.
“He will be an asset to the Finance Committee,” Ferns said of Capehart. “He was one of first people to talk to me about tax reform — and that’s been a major function of the Finance Committee over the past few years.
“There are few with his experience. He literally wrote the book on West Virginia tax reform.”
The Senate has been focused on crafting the kind of comprehensive tax, legal, regulatory and education reforms that are key to unlocking West Virginia’s full economic potential,” according to Carmichael.
“We are fortunate to have the services of an attorney with such a wide background and excellent qualifications as Rob Capehart,” he said. “As we advance an agenda that is designed to create jobs and opportunities for the citizens of West Virginia, it is important that world-class people help us achieve this goal. I look forward to utilizing the wisdom and expertise of Rob to help guide us in these critical issues.”
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