WV House Democratic Leaders Criticize Botched Impeachment Process

The Free Press WV

“I am disappointed that Republican legislative leaders did not prioritize the impeachment of Justice Allen Loughry earlier this year during the legislative session and have now caused the entire impeachment process to be turned into chaos,” House Minority Leader Tim Miley (D-Harrison) stated.  “Part of what has caused this chaos was the Republican leadership’s failure to follow its own rules of impeachment, even after several Democratic members brought these issues to their attention throughout the process,” he continued. “To this day, Republican leadership refuses to acknowledge that they made any mistakes at all in the impeachment process,” Delegate Miley stated.  “The Legislature has wasted a lot of time and taxpayer dollars on these failed impeachment proceedings.”

“I introduced a resolution to look at impeaching former Justice Allen Loughry back in February, and the House Republican leadership refused to take it up,” Delegate Mike Pushkin (D-Kanawha) stated. “When public pressure finally pushed them to take up impeachment, they failed to follow proper procedure during the proceedings,” he continued.  “Then, pride and arrogance prevented leadership from fixing these mistakes back in August when the House of Delegates was still in session,” Delegate Pushkin said.  “Now, unless the Governor calls the House back in to session for yet another special session, we will not be able to fix this and the impeachment charges against former Justice Allen Loughry, who just last week was convicted on federal charges, could be null and void,” he added. “Republican legislative leaders have botched this impeachment by first refusing to investigate and by not following the rules when they finally decided to look into former Justice Loughry’s unethical and illegal behavior.”

“Chaos continues to reign at the Legislature,” House Minority Whip Mike Caputo (D-Marion) stated.  “The Republicans in the statehouse were so focused on handpicking a court for their rich corporate cronies that they failed to follow the rules of the Legislature,” he said. “The removal from office of an elected official should be a serious undertaking, and it is a shame that the impeachment proceedings were handled in such a poor way.”

“The West Virginia House of Delegates impeached the entire Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia for maladministration,” Delegate Isaac Sponaugle (D-Pendleton) stated.  “House Republican leadership did not follow the Rules of the House of Delegates and proceeded to commit maladministration themselves,” he continued.  “The irony of the current state of affairs in West Virginia speaks for itself- what a mess!” Delegate Sponaugle said.  “The House should impeach itself for maladministration, but the odds are that would get botched too with this leadership.”

New partnership aims to reduce food insecurity

The Free Press WV

A new partnership is aiming to address food insecurity in a West Virginia community.

The Pantry Plus More program, the Mon Health Wedgewood Family Clinics and the Mountaineer Food Bank joined forces to get food to those in need in Monongalia County. Pantry Plus More President Roark Sizemore says the pilot program is the first of its kind in the state.

Sizemore said Wedgewood clinic patients who struggle with nutrition are given vouchers that can be turned in for a box of food and fresh produce once a month. He said the boxes have enough food for about a week.

Sizemore said food insecurity is a bigger problem than people realize. At the first giveaway last month, the program distributed 40 boxes and 5,000 pounds of produce.

Department of Education grant focuses on statewide issues in education

The Free Press WV

The EdVenture Group, a Morgantown nonprofit that provides educational outreach across the region, has received a grant from the U.S. Department of Education that will hone its focus from the classroom to the kitchen table.

Lydotta Taylor, EdVenture’s CEO, said the $4.8 million offering will help establish the West Virginia Family Engagement Center.

Like its name, Taylor said the center’s goal is to simply engage parents and other caregivers — so the youngsters in their households can survive and thrive in school.

Taylor, a former classroom teacher, said the center will be a collaborative effort between her organization, the U.S. Department of Education, West Virginia University and the West Virginia Department of Education.

“It’s not easy being a parent these days,” she said, “but no matter where families are or what they look like, this center is going to have the resources they need.”

“As individual students are bolstered,” she said, “so too are West Virginia’s lower-performing schools, which will also benefit from the report card improvement.

Steven Paine, West Virginia superintendent of schools, agreed, saying he likes the width and breadth of the net that will be cast by the center.

“Research tells us that family engagement in schools improves student engagement, reduces absenteeism and improves student behavior,” the superintendent said.

Taylor used to see that in her own classrooms and at her own kitchen table.

As a young mom, she read to her children nightly at home.

“In her classrooms during the day, she encouraged her students to read — and not just because it was a classroom requirement.

“There really is nothing like a good book,” she said.

“I would tell my students that all the time, and I was a math and science teacher.”

~~  Jim Bissett ~~

New Tuition-Free Coding School to Launch in West Virginia

The Free Press WV

Officials say West Virginia has a new, tuition-free coding school.

Huntington Mayor Steve Williams was among officials who announced the launch of NewForce on Thursday at Mountwest Community and Technical College. Potential students do not need experience in coding, software development or math.

The school will offer six months of intensive technology training with a goal to prepare employees for companies in West Virginia. Students will learn software development languages including HTML, CSS and JavaScript. The program ends with a job interview day.

Williams says Appalachia is poised to be the next Silicon Valley as officials create systems to accelerate students’ careers.

NewForce’s first class is January 14 and developers hope to have at least 15 students but can accommodate 25. Applications are open through November 09.

Newspaper seeks to unseal records in coal baron’s appeal

The Free Press WV

A West Virginia newspaper is asking a federal court to unseal documents filed as former coal baron Don Blankenship sought to have his criminal mine safety conviction overturned.

The Charleston Gazette-Mail reports it filed a motion Wednesday to intervene in the case so it can argue that 14 documents should be made available to the public and press.

The court filing says Blankenship’s accusations of prosecutorial misconduct have been widely circulated and the public has a right to know what information he’s using to support the allegations.

Blankenship, who was CEO of Massey Energy, was convicted of conspiring to violate mine safety and health standards at Upper Big Branch Mine, where 29 miners died in a 2010 explosion.

His conviction was upheld by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and the U.S. Supreme Court declined to consider a further appeal.

US gives closings in case against West Virginia justice

The Free Press WV

The federal government has given its closing arguments in the criminal trial of a suspended West Virginia Supreme Court justice.

Among the charges against Justice Allen Loughry are using a state vehicle and gas card for personal use.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Greg McVey told jurors Wednesday that Loughry stole from the state. McVey says Loughry was selected to be a public servant but “instead he wanted to become its master.”

The jury is expected to begin deliberating Wednesday.

Loughry and three other justices were impeached by the state House of Delegates over questions involving lavish office renovations that evolved into accusations of corruption, incompetence and neglect of duty. Loughry’s impeachment trial is set for next month in the state Senate.

Lincoln County Leads in New Business Growth for September 2018

The Free Press WV

Lincoln County led in new business growth for September 2018 with a total of five new businesses, according to the West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office.

That equates to a 1.36 percent growth. The Secretary of State’s Business & Licensing Division reported Summers, Boone, Roane and Jackson counties also had notable growth in September.

The number of business entities in Summers County grew from 410 to 415, with Boone County business entities increasing from 506 to 510. Roane County experienced an increase in business entities from 524 to 529 and Jackson County went from 1,070 to 1,077 business entities.

Statewide, West Virginia saw a 10.83 percent growth in business registrations in the previous 12-month period. That growth was led by Summers County with 16.59 percent growth.

Wirt, Jackson, Braxton and Berkeley counties followed. Wirt County saw a 15.44 percent growth, Jackson County saw a 13.55 percent growth, Braxton County saw a 13.35 percent growth and Berkeley County saw a 12.80 percent growth in the previous 12-month period.

To review the county-by-county business growth go HERE.

West Virginia, Kentucky schools teaming to boost achievement

The Free Press WV

West Virginia and Kentucky colleges are teaming up to boost the performance of Appalachian students in science, technology, engineering and math.

The alliance aims to support STEM education for underrepresented students. The effort is backed by a National Science Foundation grant.

Education officials say the grant will support learning initiatives, stipends, workshops and research activities at the schools.

Alliance-wide goals for the effort’s latest phase include increasing the number of STEM bachelor’s degrees earned by underrepresented students to an average of 380 per year.

The effort is led by University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto.

The alliance also includes West Virginia University, Kentucky State University, University of Louisville, Western Kentucky University, Centre College, Marshall University, West Virginia State University, Bluegrass Community and Technical College and Jefferson Community and Technical College.

Marshall delving into health disparities in West Virginia

The Free Press WV

Marshall University is teaming with the West Virginia Bureau for Public Health to deal with health disparities in the state.

Campus officials say a Minority Health Institute established by Marshall’s Department of Public Health will delve into the state’s health disparities among minority and underserved populations.

The institute’s founder and director, Dr. Anthony Woart, says the state’s public health bureau will collaborate on ways to use the university’s resources to help the state better deal with health disparities.

Woart has appointed LaDawna Walker as the minority health coordinator to assist with developing a strategic plan for the state’s minority health improvement initiatives.

Manchin faces firestorm at home following Kavanaugh vote

The Free Press WV

Danielle Walker cried on Joe Manchin’s shoulder after she shared her story of sexual assault in the senator’s office. She thought he listened.

The 42-year-old Morgantown woman said she was both devastated and furious when Manchin became the only Democrat in the U.S. Senate to support President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh.

“I feel raped all over again,” Walker told The Associated Press.

A day after Manchin broke with his party on what may be the most consequential vote of the Trump era, the vulnerable Democrat is facing a political firestorm back home. While Republicans — including one of the president’s sons — are on the attack, the most passionate criticism is coming from Manchin’s very own Democratic base, a small but significant portion of the electorate he needs to turn out in force to win re-election next month. A Manchin loss would put his party’s hopes of regaining control of the Senate virtually out of reach.

Walker, a first-time Democratic candidate for the state legislature, said she may not vote at all in the state’s high-stakes Senate election. Julia Hamilton, a 30-year-old educator who serves on the executive committee of the Monongalia County Democratic Party, vowed to sit out the Senate race as well.

“At some point you have to draw a line,” Hamilton said. “I have heard from many, many people — especially women. They won’t be voting for Manchin either.”

Manchin defended his vote in a Sunday interview as being based on fact, not emotion. He praised the women who shared their stories of sexual trauma, Walker among them, but said he “could not find any type of link or connection” that Kavanaugh was a rapist.

The woman who testified to the Senate about Kavanaugh, Christine Blasey Ford, accused him of sexual assault but not rape when they were high school students more than 30 years ago. Two other women stepped forward late in the confirmation process to accuse the appeals court judge of sexual misconduct in high school or college. Their stories resonated with women who had suffered sexual trauma and fueled opposition to Kavanaugh’s confirmation.

“They weren’t going to be satisfied, or their healing process, until we convicted this person,” Manchin told The Associated Press. “I couldn’t do it. You talk about two wrongs trying to make a right. It just wasn’t in my heart and soul to do that.”

Manchin insisted over and over that his vote wasn’t based on politics.

There is little doubt, however, that his vote was in line with the wishes of many West Virginia voters, who gave Trump a victory in 2016 by 42 percentage points. There simply aren’t enough Democrats in the state to re-elect Manchin. He needs a significant chunk of Trump’s base to win.

One West Virginia Trump supporter, 74-year-old Linda Ferguson, explained the politics bluntly as she watched the parade at Saturday’s Mountain State Forest Festival in Elkins.

“If he didn’t vote for Kavanaugh he could have kissed his seat goodbye,” Ferguson said.

While he may have represented the majority of his state, Manchin’s political challenges are far from over.

The clash over Kavanaugh, who was confirmed by the Senate on Saturday, has injected new energy into each party’s political base. While that may help Democrats in their fight for the House majority, which is largely taking place in America’s suburbs, there are signs it’s hurting vulnerable Democrats in rural Republican-leaning states like North Dakota, Missouri and West Virginia. Phil Bredesen, who said he would have voted for Kavanaugh, could also face new challenges in his bid to flip Tennessee’s Senate seat to the Democratic column.

For much of the year, Manchin has held a significant lead in public and private polls over his Republican opponent, state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey. Yet Republican operatives familiar with the race report a definite tightening over the last week.

In an interview, Morrisey called Democrats’ fight against Kavanaugh a “three-ring circus” that “energized a lot of people in West Virginia.”

He acknowledged that Manchin voted the right way for the state, but called the vote “irrelevant” because another swing vote, Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins, had already given Kavanaugh the final vote he needed.

“He waited until the last possible minute after Susan Collins declared for him to take a position, effectively allowing Maine to decide how West Virginia’s going to decide,” Morrisey charged. “We shouldn’t reward that kind of cowardice.”

Echoing the attack, Donald Trump Jr., mockingly called Manchin “a real profile in courage” on Twitter.

When asked about the social media jab, the West Virginia senator slapped away the insult from the younger Trump.

Donald Trump Jr. is “entitled to his opinion, he’s just not entitled to his own facts to justify what he’s saying. He doesn’t really know anything,” Manchin told the AP.

The Democrat conceded that he followed Collins’ lead out of “respect” — he didn’t want to get in the way of her high-profile Friday afternoon announcement on the Senate floor.

“Nothing would have changed my vote,” Manchin declared. “Susan took the lead, Susan did the due diligence. ... She’s going to give her speech and I’m not going to jump in front of 3 o’clock. I’m just not going to do it.”

That wasn’t good enough for Tammy Means, a 57-year-old florist from Charleston, who was among thousands tailgating outside West Virginia University’s football stadium in Morgantown on Saturday.

Means, a registered Democrat who voted for Trump, said she also voted for Manchin in the past.

“I’m not going to anymore. Nope,” she said with a laugh as she sipped a Smirnoff Ice. She’s glad Manchin voted for Kavanaugh, but said, “He’s just doing it so he can get elected.”

Across the parking lot, 63-year-old John Vdovjac said he was deeply disappointed by Manchin’s vote. Still, the Democrat said he’d probably vote for Manchin this fall.

“I recognize the position he’s in because the state’s heavily Republican now,” said Vdovjac, a retired educator from Wheeling, as he helped grill hotdogs and hamburgers. “But he’s lost my loyalty.

Manchin knows he needs to explain his vote to his constituents, although he didn’t have any public events scheduled this weekend. Before and after the AP interview, conducted at Charleston’s International House of Pancakes, he told everyone who would listen — including his waitress — that his Kavanaugh vote was not based on emotion.

“I made my decision based on facts,” the senator told Kevin Estep, a 57-year-old registered Democrat and Trump voter who was eating buttered pancakes with his family.

“You hang in there and vote your heart,” Estep, who lives in nearby St. Albans, told the senator.

After Manchin left the building, Estep warned that the #MeToo movement “is like a dam that’s about to break open.”

Asked whether he’d support Manchin this fall, he responded, “Always.”

$55.2 million in bonds have been sold for State Park improvements

The Free Press WV

Governor Jim Justice said the state of West Virginia sold $55.2 million in excess lottery revenue bonds, issued through the West Virginia Economic Development Authority (WVEDA), to fund $60 million in state park improvement projects to promote economic development and help grow tourism.

“West Virginia has needed to update and improve our state parks for years and I committed to get this done and that’s exactly what we’re going to do,” Governor Justice said. “These bonds will fund improvements that will modernize and make our state parks so much more attractive as we continue to grow and expand our tourism industry. This is a big day for West Virginia and our state parks.”

Debt service on the bonds will be paid from revenues deposited in the Excess Lottery Revenue Fund which primarily include net profits of racetrack video lottery and limited video lottery machines.

The bonds received strong ratings of “AAA” by S&P Global and “A1” by Moody’s Investor Services.

This financing was a collaborative effort among State representatives from the Governor’s Office, the Division of Natural Resources, the WVEDA, the Department of Administration and the Lottery Commission.

State representatives worked expeditiously, in a rising interest rate environment, to bring the bonds to market as quickly as possible to lock in an attractive all in borrowing cost on the 20-year bonds of 3.65%.

The bonds in the first 10 years were well received by the market and garnered investor orders in excess of the bonds being offered. Later year maturities, particularly 2031 to 2039, were priced at attractive credit spreads of 35 basis points over the MMD municipal index.  These credit spreads represent the second most aggressive pricing levels in recent history of state-backed lottery bonds.

“The solid pricing results are a testament to the strong state lottery ratings, importance of the state park projects and continued commitment from Wall Street to invest in the State of West Virginia,” Governor Justice added. 

West Virginia registers more than 5,000 to vote in September

The Free Press WV

The West Virginia secretary of state’s office says county clerks registered more than 5,000 people to vote last month.

The office says all 55 counties registered new voters during September, which is National Voter Registration Month.

Secretary of State Mac Warner attended high school voter registration drives in Cabell, Putnam and Kanawha counties last month.

His office said in a news release that many high schools also held voter registration drives, and more than 30 registration drives took place in communities around the state.

The release says the total registration for county clerks during September was 5,002.

Warner says it’s important to keep voter registration files updated and to encourage those who are eligible to register to vote.

West Virginia University offering program on food choices

The Free Press WV

West Virginia University is offering a program on making smart food choices.

The panel discussion is free and open to the public.

It is set for 3:30 p.m. Thursday at WVU Media Innovation Center in Morgantown.

A reception will follow.

The program will cover how consumers use available information to make the best food choices for themselves.

Panelists include WVU human nutrition and foods associate professor Nettie Freshour, WVU Food Justice Laboratory Director Bradley Wilson, Iowa State University food science and human nutrition professor Kevin Keener and University of California, Davis, professor and air quality extension specialist Frank Mitloehner.

Freshour said in a news release that it’s important to research and ask questions before deciding which products are best.

“I am Thankful…” Essay Contest

The Free Press WV

First Lady Cathy Justice and her “Student Artist Series” today announce the “I am thankful…” Essay Contest. All students in the 12th grade are invited to submit an essay of five hundred words or less to tell “What you are most thankful for this year”. “I hope that as students are entering the final year of high school that they can take some time to reflect and remember the people and moments that are most important to them,“ First Lady Cathy Justice said.

This contest is the second installment of the First Lady’s “Student Artist Series” initiative. On special holidays, she will host different art competitions or projects for students to participate in that will encourage creativity and promote the importance of the arts within schools throughout West Virginia. 

Students may submit an essay via email to or mail their entries to The Governor’s Mansion, 1716 Kanawha Boulevard East, Charleston, WV 25305. With their submission, they MUST include a cover page with their name, phone, email, word count, school name, teacher name, and teacher email. The essays must be received by October 19, 2018. Winners will be announced by November 19th. Prizes will be awarded to winning essays. For questions please contact the First Lady’s Special Assistant, Katie Speece at (304) 558-3588 or .

Lewis County man admits to on drug and firearms charges

The Free Press WV

John David Davisson, of Weston, West Virginia, has admitted to firearms and methamphetamine distribution charges, United States Attorney Bill Powell announced.

Davisson, age 27, pled guilty to one count of “Possession with Intent to Distribute Methamphetamine” and one count of “Carry a Firearm During a Drug Trafficking Crime.” Davisson admitted to possessing a .45-caliber pistol and two 9mm pistols while possessing crystal methamphetamine, also known as ice, in October 2017 in Lewis County.

Davisson faces up to life incarceration and a fine of up to $250,000 for firearms count and faces up to 20 years incarceration and a fine of up to $1,000,000 for the methamphetamine count. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed will be based upon the seriousness of the offenses and the prior criminal history, if any, of the defendant.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen D. Warner is prosecuting the case on behalf of the government. The Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms, Tobacco and Explosives and the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office investigated.

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program that has been historically successful in bringing together all levels of law enforcement to reduce violent crime and make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has made turning the tide of rising violent crime in America a top priority. In October 2017, as part of a series of actions to address this crime trend, Attorney General Sessions announced the reinvigoration of PSN and directed all U.S. Attorney’s Offices to develop a district crime reduction strategy that incorporates the lessons learned since PSN launched in 2001.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael John Aloi presided.

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