Harrison County officialdom has a few black eyes

An editorial from The Exponent Telegram

CLARKSBURG, W.Va. — Harrison County government is starting to resemble the face of a prize fighter who’s taken a beating. That is, it’s sporting a couple of big black eyes.

Consider all that’s happened in recent years:

* While working as city manager of Salem, David Mayle and then-city clerk Sherry Smith (also known as Sherry Lovett and Sherry Olenick) stole tens of thousands in taxpayer dollars. Mayle went to prison, while Smith served house arrest. Meanwhile, the public paid the price.

* Harrison County Development employee Judy Gonzalez embezzled hundreds of thousands of dollars. She went to prison, too. And again, the public footed the bill.

* While mayor of Bridgeport, Mario Blount was unlawfully dispensing pills from his Best Care pharmacy in the city’s downtown. Blount is likely headed to prison for his crimes, with sentencing set for January. Meanwhile, the damage to public trust and harm to the community is beyond measure.

* A county board formed to oversee Charles Pointe’s sales tax increment financing (TIF) district selected James Lignelli as its appraiser at a time he was under federal indictment on bank fraud charges. Lignelli was convicted on three counts in June. Was this discovered by county officials? Nope.

And as a result another appraisal has been put out to bid, costing thousands of dollars in additional taxpayer funds.

* The board of the Central West Virginia Transit Authority allowed John Aman to remain as general manager even after he was charged with a federal financial crime. And get this: Aman continued to be on the payroll as late as last week, just weeks away from reporting to a federal prison to serve a sentence for bank fraud. CENTRA board officials failed the public trust in this whole mess.

* Clarksburg City Councilman Zeke Lopez committed domestic assault on his wife, and some members of city council are continuing to try to remove him from office. That’s left Lopez as a nonvoting member of council. Meanwhile, Marshall Goff was forced out by the feds as police chief of the city for his alleged handling of the case, as was one of his senior officers. Who wins in this? Certainly not the citizens of Clarksburg.

* Jason Marple, a process server for the Harrison County Sheriff’s Department, pleaded guilty to committing a drug crime while carrying his service weapon and wearing his uniform and badge. Why this wasn’t discovered during an internal investigation by the Sheriff’s Department when it received a tip in 2011 is a question that lingers to this day. Certainly, this is a blow to the public’s trust in the sheriff’s department.

* And just last week, Harrison Magistrate Mark Gorby was charged with five sex-related crimes alleged to have occurred during his tenure. Gorby’s case is a long way from being over. It is important to remember he is innocent until proven guilty. But, taken within the context of everything else that has happened at the courthouse, it is rather discouraging from a public perspective.

So, all this was several decades in the making, right? Well, not exactly. It happened just within the past four years…

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