In West Virginia….

The Free Press WV

►  Three people facing animal cruelty charges

Three people in Gilmer County are facing charges after 11 dogs were allegedly found in the “worst case” the police officer says he has ever seen.

Jamey and Suzane Hall and Marjorie Freeman were arrested Wednesday on animal cruelty charges.

According to police, the dogs in their care were starved and infested with worms, fleas, and parasites.

►  Randolph County Schools Hires Gabriel DeVano for Superintendent

The new leader of Randolph County Schools was announced Tuesday in a special Board of Education meeting.

Gabriel J. “Gabe” Devono, the current superintendent of Gilmer County Schools, has accepted the superintendent position for Randolph County Schools and is set to begin July 01.

Devono has served in his current position since July 2014, when he was appointed as part of a “state takeover” of Gilmer County’s school system. Prior to that, he served from 2002 to 2014 as executive director of Regional Educational Service Agency 07, which includes Randolph, Upshur, Barbour and nine other counties.

He said he has met his goals for Gilmer County, and it was removed from takeover status in January.

“I guess I felt I wanted to move on to new challenges,” he said in a phone interview Tuesday evening, adding he is familiar with the Randolph County area thanks to RESA 7, and he is eager to meet with people and organizations in the area.

“I look forward to working with the Board of Education, and my staff and the community,” he said.

Devono already has three goals for his new position: addressing the budget, facilities and communication, he said.

The Randolph County Board of Education had voted January 26 to open a search for a new superintendent and to not renew the contract of current Superintendent of Schools Pam Hewitt.

The action came after board members discussed Hewitt’s performance evaluation during an executive session.

Although BOE members are not able to disclose personnel matters and reasons for not renewing Hewitt’s contract, the school system has faced a number of challenges in recent years.

The Board of Education has made three consecutive unsuccessful attempts to pass an excess levy since November 2015, and the county school system has struggled with declining student enrollment and decreasing funds. In January, the board approved plans to close Valley Head Elementary School, and this April, the board voted to terminate 11 professional positions and nine service positions for the upcoming school year.

The state Board of Education has placed Randolph County on a “watch list,” which means the county must provide monthly financial reports and is under a higher level of scrutiny.

Tuesday’s unanimous decision by the local board followed a hiring process that included consideration of 13 qualified candidates. The board narrowed the candidates down to six and asked the same questions to each person.

“He’s had a lot of experience in dealing with counties in financial turmoil,” board member Rachel Anger said about Devono following Tuesday’s meeting.

Board member Amanda Smith agreed, and said Devono did not shy away from asking difficult questions, and he has demonstrated experience with working closely with the West Virginia Board of Education.

“He just seemed incredibly prepared and professional, and he had researched our county as well, and seems to know what he’s getting into,” Smith said. “He also just had a really good personality, and I think he’ll be great for the community.”

Devono’s position will be based on a two-year, 261-day contract with an annual salary of $115,000, said Donna Auvil, president of Randolph County Board of Education.

Auvil said Randolph County actually will save more than $20,000 per year because insurance and retirement-matching costs will not be paid by Randolph County Schools. She said Devono will be able to retire from his current position before accepting the position in Randolph County.

“In essence it will cost us much less than the current superintendent position,” Auvil said.

In addition to his work in Gilmer County and with RESA, Devono also has experience as supervisor/assistant superintendent in Lewis County from 1989 to 2002, and was assistant principal of Lewis County High School from 1986 to 1989.

The next regular Randolph County Board of Education meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. May 22 at the school board office in Elkins.  ~~  Inter-Mountain ~~

►  Manchin says Comey sought more resources; senator calls for special independent prosecutor

U.S. Senator Joe Manchin confirmed Wednesday fired FBI Director James Comey had recently sought additional resources for his investigation into Russian influence in the 2016 presidential election.

“That’s a fact,” Manchin told reporters during a conference call. “Comey was seeking more assistance. (It came) with the last week to 10 days.”

Donald Trump fired Comey Tuesday. The White House said Wednesday the President had lost confidence in Comey in recent months.

“He should have fired him then,” Manchin said. “It makes it much more difficult for the administration by waiting until they’re in the throes of knowing now there is an FBI investigation into Russian activity.”

Manchin, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Comey is scheduled to appear before the committee next Tuesday. Manchin and other committee members are calling for a special prosecutor to be appointed to take over the investigation.

“This person would allow report directly to Congress on their investigation and findings. So it would have to be a high-ranking career person. They can’t be in jeopardy of losing their job or (be) fired,” Manchin said.

The White House said Wednesday it didn’t believe a special prosecutor was necessary. Manchin said he believes an appointment would help the public perception of the investigation but the Senate Intelligence will go on with its probe without one.

“It’s not going to impede at all the job we do as Senate Intel,” Manchin said. “I can assure the American public the Senate Intelligence Committee will continue to complete a thorough investigation based on the intelligence we receive and the facts that we have. We will come to the ability to find the truth.”

►  Ritchie County Duo Hoping to Raise $40,000 for American Cancer Society

For sixteen years, David Meeks and Sandy Reed have had a simple philosophy when it comes to raising money for the American Cancer Society.

“Even if one dollar goes towards helping someone survive or helping someone get over cancer–whether it’s by a wig or transportation or a cure some day–when you walk away you feel like you were able to help,” Meeks said.

Meeks and Reed coordinate, captain, and drive the fundraising efforts for a the Cardinal-Simon Relay for Life Team in Ritchie County. They’ve raised around $500,000 by auctioning off windows and doors at a manufacturing plant in Ritchie County since 2001. The windows and doors are brand new, but they are donated by PlyGem Windows and their local affiliate Simonton Windows Manufacturing Facility in partnership with Cardinal Logistics. They are discounted for auction to raise money for the American Cancer Society.

“When this first started, there were only six or seven of us that started it,” Meeks said. “We didn’t know how it was going to work. We had never done an auction before in our life. We just decided to do it, and Simonton gave us the windows. We made that first year $13,000 off of two trailer loads of windows.”

It’s up to the customer to find what they are looking for (though volunteers are there to assist); Meeks and Reed can never be certain of their inventory until they begin unloading the truck at 6 a.m. one Saturday per year to set up the show. But, Meeks said, it offers people a chance to get a product they want and put their money to a good cause.

“Every year the good Lord seems to take care of us, and every year I get in my car exhausted and wore out and thanking the good Lord that it was another successful year and somebody else is going to benefit from it,” he said.

Everything is donated, and that includes the help of auctioneers, volunteers to assist with the labor, and the products.

“We have repeat customers,” Meeks said. “We have people that come back, and some of those folks give a little extra. We’ve been handed donations. They say, ‘Here we want to give this to the American Cancer Society.’ We’ve had folks come and not find what they want and give a donation to the American Cancer Society.”

Often those customers aren’t just West Virginians. Volunteers and customers alike come from as far as Georgia, Virginia, and Kentucky.

It can be a stressful day though, according to Sandy Reed. The volunteers are often just as invested in the outcome after a day of grueling labor as she and Meeks are when the final numbers are tallied.

“I’m always anxious to see what the total is,” she said. “All of our volunteers are really waiting at the end. Most of them wait around til we get everything counted up so they’ll know what we made before they go home.”

And what they make goes entirely to the Relay for Life program, a program which is estimated to have raised more than $5 billion nationally for the American Cancer Society since it’s inception.

“When you’re sitting beside a bed of somebody with cancer, please know that there are people out there that care and are doing everything in their power to one day rid us of this awful cancer,” Meeks said.

The 2017 Window Auction for a Cure is fast approaching. At 11 a.m. on Saturday, May 13, the auction will open at Simonton Windows Manufacturing Facility on Rt. 50 in Ellenboro. The entire process takes place in the adjacent parking lot.

The team raised nearly $40,000 in 2016, which is their benchmark goal for 2017. Their record is $76,000.

Food, refreshments, and restrooms will be available. The event will be held regardless of weather, and tents will be set up if rain does become a factor.

Only cash or checks are accepted.

►  Reporter arrested at Capitol after trying to ask U.S. health secretary questions

A West Virginia reporter was arrested Tuesday at the State Capitol after trying to ask Tom Price, the secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, questions about the American Health Care Act.

Dan Heyman of Charleston is a reporter with Public News Service and has been in the journalism industry for 30 years. He said he was at the Capitol to speak to Price about the effects of the legislation passed on May 4 by the U.S. House of Representatives.

A criminal complaint indicated that Heyman had entered the space of Price’s Secret Service protection to ask his questions.

There was a media availability with Price in the Governor’s Reception Room about an hour after Heyman’s arrest, although it had not been widely publicized. Reporters from the Charleston Gazette-Mail, West Virginia Public Broadcasting and WCHS-TV asked Price questions about federal healthcare law.

But Heyman was on his own and in the Capitol hallway when he attempted to ask his questions about the effects of changes to federal healthcare.

According to Heyman, Price, who became secretary on February 10, entered through the Capitol’s west wing.

“I had been working on whether or not domestic violence is a pre-existing condition,” he said. States who receive a waiver from the federal government would be allowed to create high-risk insurance pools for individuals with pre-existing conditions.

Kellyanne Conway, counsel to Donald Trump, was also with Price at the time.

Heyman, who was using his cellphone as a recorder, said he reached out his arm and asked Price the question “repeatedly” with no answer.

“At some point, I think (the Capitol Police) decided I was too persistent in asking this question and trying to do my job, so they arrested me,” he said. “I asked if I was under arrest, and they said yes. And I said, ‘If I’m under arrest, how come I haven’t had my Miranda rights read to me?‘”

“They said, ‘Well, we’re not asking you any questions right now.”

Heyman said he waited in an office while officers filed related paperwork. Upon completion, the officers told Heyman he “had the right to remain silent.”

Heyman was charged in Kanawha County Magistrate Court with a misdemeanor of willful disruption of governmental processes.

“(Heyman) was aggressively breaching the Secret Service agents to the point where the agents were forced to remove him a couple times from the area walking up the hallway of the main building,” the complaint said. “The defendant was causing a disturbance by yelling questions at Ms. Conway and Secretary Price.”

The complaint cited state code regarding intimidating government officials at the Capitol.

“If any person willfully interrupts or molests the orderly and peaceful process of any department, division, agency or branch of state government or of its political subdivisions, he or she is guilty of a misdemeanor,” the code states.

Those found guilty could be fined $100 and also be sentenced to six months in jail.

Heyman was released Tuesday evening on a $5,000 bond, which his lawyer, Tim DiPiero, said was paid for by someone associated with Public News Service.

“Normally, I would make no comment on a criminal case and recommend to my client that he make no comment,” DiPiero said. “I’ve never had a client arrested for talking too loud or anything similar to that.”

Heyman was wearing the same white Public News Service polo shirt he was arrested in when he talked to reporters Tuesday evening.

The preliminary hearing is scheduled within the next 20 days, according to DiPiero.

American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia also held a press conference Tuesday night outside of the State Capitol on the matter.

Jamie Lynn Crofts, the legal director of the organization, said freedom of the press should not be undermined.

“We have a president that calls the media ‘fake news,’ and resists transparency at every turn,” she said. “Today, a reporter was arrested for trying to ask a question to a member of the Trump administration.”

Crofts said Heyman was not being disruptive based on present information.

“I have one thing to say to anyone who infringes on First Amendment rights: we’ll see you in court,” Crofts concluded.

Heyman, who joined Public News Service in 2009, said he was just doing his job.

“I am supposed to find out if somebody is going to be affected by this health care law,” he said.

Price took part in a press conference Tuesday afternoon after meeting with Governor Jim Justice and others about the state’s opioid addiction problems.

Conway, West Virginia Health and Human Resources Secretary Bill Crouch; U.S. Representative Evan Jenkins, R-WV; Recovery Point Executive Director Matt Boggs; and First Choice Health Systems Vice President and CFO Scott Jarrett joined Price at the media briefing.

►  Multi-Agency Investigation Leads to Arrest of Volunteer Firefighter

Investigators with the West Virginia State Fire Marshal’s Office have arrested a man for his role in two fires earlier this year in Morgan County.

Alex Gloyd, 18, of Great Cacapon was arrested Friday, May 05 and charged with first-degree arson and willfully and maliciously setting fire to land.

The charges link Gloyd to a February 06 structure fire at 695 Henry Miller Blvd. in Paw Paw, and a March 05 wildland fire off Milo Road.

Gloyd is a member of the Great Cacapon Volunteer Fire Department and an honorary member of the Paw Paw Volunteer Fire Department. Gloyd had responded to both incidents as a volunteer firefighter.

The State Fire Marshal offers special thanks to the WV Division of Natural Resources (DNR) police, the Maryland State Fire Marshal’s Office, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Police and the WV State Police.  All agencies contributed to the investigation.

►  West Virginia court affirms civil rights violation dismissal

The West Virginia Supreme Court has upheld dismissal of felony civil rights charges against a former Marshall University football player accused in a 2015 attack on two men he saw kissing.

The justices voted 3-2 Tuesday to send the case of Steward Butler back to Cabell County Circuit Court for further disposition.

Circuit Judge Paul Farrell ruled last year that Butler could not be charged with a hate crime because it appeared that state lawmakers intended to leave protections based on sexual orientation out of the law.

The Supreme Court ruled that state code clearly defines sex as male or female, does not address sexual orientation and that lawmakers have rejected attempts to include sexual orientation since the law was enacted three decades ago.

Congratulations Randolph on your hiring of Superintendent Devano.

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