Latest News, WV Press InSight Videos

Ex-Wyoming agency chief settles case for $528,000

STEPHENSON, W.Va. — Bob Graham … Remember him? Robert E. Graham, of Stephenson, formerly of Princeton, the wrongly defrocked former chief executive officer of the Wyoming County Council on Aging and All Care Home and Community Services, is back in the news, but this time for getting the state to foot the bill for his legal fees and another quarter-million for the “nuisance and aggravation” (less legal fees) he endured for the past decade.

“On Friday (Aug. 29) at the settlement conference, when I asked the insurance company (National Union Fire Insurance Co., of Pittsburgh, Pa.) why there wasn’t a non-disclosure clause in the agreement, he said they couldn’t do it because it is a BRIM settlement,” Graham said, making reference to the West Virginia Board of Risk and Insurance Management. “I thought that was significant.”

Graham, now 67, was pleased to announce that the insurance provider who refused to defend him against a 39-count federal indictment alleging a laundry list of alleged offenses, many of which were funded by the six-figure salary he was receiving from operating the county’s two non-profit agencies, had to shell out $528,273.56, with $278,273.56 for his legal fees and $250,000 (less $88,333.34 in additional legal fees) for his nuisance and aggravation.

Following a federal bench trial in 2006 where the public learned that Graham had covered the cost of breast augmentation for one of the dancers he fancied at a Mercer County gentlemen’s club, now Senior Status Judge David A. Faber of the Southern District of West Virginia sentenced Graham to 24 months on the lone count of conviction — that of allegedly hoodwinking his board of elderly members into allowing him to cash in more than $30,000 of his sick leave in 2004.

The state’s press corps had a field decade reporting on the salary and perks that Graham received from the dual non-profits. In the narrative that Graham submitted to case mediator, former State Supreme Court Justice Thomas McHugh, the plaintiff’s legal team — Mike Carey and Jack Kessler (who grew up in Bluefield) of Carey, Scott, Douglas and Kessler — Graham owned up to negotiating in 2001, a $185,000 annual salary for operating the two non-profits. His related benefits packages included overtime, sick leave, vacation time, two expense-paid vacations annually, and a personal vehicle of his own choosing, according to documents Graham provided to the Bluefield Daily Telegraph.

The big red flag popped up in early 2003 when Graham got permission from the board to cash in $240,000 of his unused sick leave to mount a defense against the growing discontent among people in high places who were at odds with Graham for one reason or another. The $185,000 salary for the two agencies, plus the $240,000 in cashed-in sick leave, added up to $425,000, a figure close to the amount that got repeated over and over again in the state’s media.

“I saved all of the newspaper articles,” Graham said during a Sunday evening phone interview from his Stephenson home. “By November of 2004, the state’s newspapers had published 158 articles about me. Before all of this came up, I didn’t know anything about the ‘follow-the-leader’ press in this state. I didn’t know there was a difference in a news story that required a writer to have some facts and an editorial or column where you can make it all up. Heck, I didn’t even know that reporters don’t write their own headlines.”

On Jan. 5, 2007, Faber sentenced Graham to 24 months in prison, fined him $10,000 and ordered Graham to forfeit $31,129. A month later, he reported to FCI Morgantown, and the appeals as well as other pleadings seeking to un-freeze his assets started flowing. A year later on March 13, 2008, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., overturned Graham’s single count of conviction. Graham was released from prison four days later.

During the next six years, Graham and his legal team has continued their efforts to recover assets…

Comments are closed.

Subscribe to Our Newsletter