Opinion

Long-serving officials not exempt from the rules

An editorial from the Parkersburg News and Sentinel

PARKERSBURG, W.Va. — When Walt Helmick became West Virginia commissioner of agriculture last year, one of the first things he did was to request a thorough audit of his department. That is not unusual, especially when an office holder’s predecessor has been in office for many years.

What auditors found was unusual, however. Former Agriculture Commissioner Gus Douglass served in that position for 44 years. He headed the department for half its history. During that time, “very troubling activities” occurred, House of Delegates Speaker Tim Miley, D-Harrison, said Thursday.

Miley added he and state Senate President Jeff Kessler have turned findings from the audit over to U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin’s office.

While not making accusations of wrongdoing, Miley was more specific than often is the case in such situations. He told a reporter auditors had found “questionable accounting methods, expense reimbursements and loans administered by the agency.”

In a news release, Miley added that neither Kessler, Helmick nor he “tolerate any activities that lack integrity or violate the public trust.”

For decades, longevity in office fed longevity in office for Douglass…

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