Opinion

Stop paying for work not done

An editorial from The Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register

WHEELING, W.Va. — No one really knows the origin of a well-known phrase used in reaction to a ridiculous statute: “If the law supposes that, the law is an ass.” But West Virginians have a new reason to appreciate the condemnation.

A member of the state Water Development Authority has been paid $58,300 during the past five years – despite never attending a meeting during that period.

Authority member Robert F. Hatfield last attended a board meeting in August 2011, it was reported. His term on the board ended in June 2012 – but he continued to receive his $12,000 annual salary until earlier this month, when Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin appointed a replacement for him. State law required Hatfield be paid, regardless of his dereliction of duty, according to an authority official.

One may wonder why Hatfield continued to accept payment for services not rendered. A better question is why no one in state government spotted a problem and took steps to correct it, as Tomblin finally did on June 1.

Obviously, any law requiring a public employee be paid when he or she is not doing the job – except, of course, in unusual situations such as illness or military service – is absurd.

State legislators should change that rule regarding the water authority and any other paid positions in government. Otherwise they will be … well, you know.

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