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Ethics Commission issues its take on trinket law

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia public officials will have to strictly limit the number of pictures of themselves that are posted on their official agency websites, trash any banners or displays featuring their names and/or photos and toss any promotional items or trinkets they have in inventory, even if the items were purchased before the effective date of a law banning such trinkets, the state Ethics Commission ruled Thursday.

Issuing its first advisory opinion on the new state law barring public officials from using taxpayer money for self-promotional trinkets, advertising or entertainment (HB2457), the commission imposed sharp restrictions.

Among the highlights of the advisory opinion unanimously approved Thursday:

• On official agency websites, photographs of public officials are to be limited to two locations: the website’s home page and a biographical page for the official.

“I agree, 100 percent,” said Commissioner Betty Ireland, a former secretary of state. “You don’t need your picture on every page.”

• Any trinkets or promotional items featuring a public official’s name or image cannot be distributed to the public, even if the items were purchased before the trinkets law went into effect on May 28.

The draft advisory opinion would have allowed public officials to use up any inventory of trinkets and promotional items on hand, but Commissioner Larry Tweel argued that that would be at odds with the intent of the law…

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