By ERIC EYRE
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Gov. Jim Justice has appointed former campaign advisor Larry Puccio to the West Virginia Water Development Authority’s board of directors.
Puccio lobbies for Justice’s Southern Coal Corp. and The Greenbrier resort, which Justice also owns. Puccio replaces Jason Pizatella on the water board. Justice recently hired Pizatella as deputy chief of staff.
Water board members make $12,000 a year and typically attend four meetings annually.
Puccio said he would likely donate his board salary to charity.
“I did not know there was a salary,” he said. “I thought it was a volunteer board. If I can donate, I’ll donate it.”
His appointment requires confirmation by the state Senate.
Puccio also lobbies for Frontier Communications, First Energy, United Health Systems and the West Virginia Press Association. He has worked as a real estate appraiser and developer.
“We do a lot of construction, build homes and subdivisions and all that, so they asked if I Would step on that board, and I said yes,” Puccio said.
Asked for the name of his development group, he said, “I’m not getting into my private stuff.”
Puccio has close ties to Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. Puccio was Manchin’s former campaign manager and served as Manchin’s chief of staff while Manchin was governor.
Manchin formerly owned a yacht — named “The Black Tie” — with the Water Development Authority’s executive director, Chris Jarrett.
Last year, Jarrett ordered a wiretapping sweep of the Water Development Authority office amid allegations of secret recordings. Charleston police conducted the search for hidden listening devices at the agency’s building near Fazio’s Italian Restaurant. No wiretaps were found, according to agency employees.
The Gazette-Mail has reported that the water authority has hired temporary workers and provided them with perks such as paid holidays, sick-leave and the use of state-owned vehicles.
The Legislature’s Commission on Special Investigations is leading the inquiry into the water authority.
“I’m going to wait patiently to see the findings of the investigation,” Puccio said. “Any findings I see I will take very seriously and see how we can make things better.”
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