W.Va. agriculture audit reveals ‘extravagant’ expenses

By Pamela Pritt

Register-Herald

BECKLEY, W.Va. — “Extravagant” expenses, padded travel statements and improper accounting practices are among the charges revealed in the audit of the West Virginia Department of Agriculture from 2008-2012.

The audit found more than $11,000 in potential improper expenditures for former commissioner Gus Douglass, including nearly $4,000 in reimbursement for a campsite at the West Virginia State Fair for which he was not charged. According to the audit, Douglass claimed more than $100 a night in expenses for the campsite from 2008-2012.

The audit also says that Douglass flew to Charleston from North Carolina for a cost of $94, then took the state-owned plane from Yeager Airport to Jackson County for a ceremony that honored him. Douglass flew back to North Carolina on the state-owned plane, which then had to return to Charleston for a total cost to the public of $3,150. The audit called the junket “extravagant.”

Douglass, 86, served for 44 years as agriculture commissioner after first being elected in 1964. The Democrat was the longest-serving state agriculture commissioner in the state’s history, but decided against running for re-election in 2012. That election was won by current Agriculture Commissioner Walt Helmick.

Douglass was unavailable for comment Monday morning.

The audit also found Douglass made improper charges for 21 stays at a Charleston Hotel, and more than $1,000 in improper meal charges. The former commissioner also charged the state for “other expenses” which had no receipts, improperly added mileage amounts in excess of the distances he actually traveled and charged the state travel expenses for his wife, the audit said.

Those practices trickled down to employee activity, as well, according to the audit…

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