House of Delegates Speaker Tim Miley dropped a bombshell on Metronews Talkline last week, revealing that a Legislative audit has turned up potential financial wrongdoing in the state Agriculture Department under former Commissioner Gus Douglass.

“There are some expense issues and accounting issues that appear to be suspicious,” Miley said.  “False documents appear to have been submitted inappropriately and reimbursements made for those false expense vouchers.”

Miley said the information has been turned over to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, which is investigating the allegations.

The audit hasn’t been released yet, and Miley was short on specifics, but he added that one issue centered on what he derisively called a “friends and family loan program.”  Miley could be talking about how Douglass’ department handled the Rural Rehabilitation Loan program.

“It appears to have very little, if any, policies and procedures that have been followed in awarding these loans,” Miley said.  “Senate President (Jeff) Kessler and I are willing to work with (current Ag Commissioner Walt) Helmick about addressing that loan program and either eliminating it or tightening the controls.”

Who keeps track of these loans?  What kind of due diligence is done to determine who qualifies?  What safeguards are in place to ensure that conflicts of interest are avoided?  Have the taxpayers of West Virginia lost money on any bad loans?

Metronews reached out to Douglass last week.  The former 11-term commissioner maintained that nothing inappropriate happened under his watch.

“I just can’t comprehend any abnormalities,” Douglass said.  “I’ve always been transparent and continue to do so, because insofar as I know all the activities of the department were within the realm of what is expected of… the Department of Agriculture.”

Douglass did add, however, that he had talked to an attorney.  “I can have no further comment until my representative has some information and we can determine what the challenge is.”

We’ll all know more about the “challenge” when the audit is made public, and hopefully that’s soon.  Legislative Auditor Aaron Allred’s office has a reputation for producing substantial work, and Douglass may find himself facing tougher questions now than anytime during his nearly half-century in office.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Comments

  • Bill

    It's time to audit every state agency. This could just be the tip of a very large iceberg! This should show that one person in the same position for decades is not a real good idea for elected or appointed positions.

  • BAC

    Question is, why was this referred to the U.S. Attorney? It's a state issue, not a federal, right? Should go to State Police investigation and the Kanawha County prosecutor.

  • Boookman

    He should be fired !

    • CaptainQ

      You mean, hire Gus Douglass back and then fire him?

      Sounds too Donald Trumpish to me!

      LOL

  • Hop'sHip

    Why is Agriculture Commissioner an elected office? Why don't we elect a mining commissioner? Or does the Governor just serve that role? If we decide to elect a Media Commissioner, I hope Hoppy runs. That way we could get our daily commentary adorned with the state seal!

  • clair thompson

    When are we West Virginia people going to realize that there our another party we can vote for. And term limits would be nice.

  • Jason412

    @MtMama (site wont let me reply directly to you)

    A "much more pressing need" is making Helmick pay a hotel bill? That $8,000 hotel bill is owed because of a retirement party for Gus Douglas. Helmick "inherited" that bill, after Douglas was told by the Ethic's Commission they could not use state funds for the party but could host it at Culture Center for free. The Culture Center obviously wasn't good enough for a retirement party, it had to be the Embassy Suites.

    If this article is true(big assumption, I know), I would say falsifying documents, and handing out money directly related to those false documents should be a bit more of a worry then paying hotel bills.

    When Walt Helmick doesn't pay a hotel bill for Gus Douglas' retirement party, it's not my tax dollars being wasted. It's a shady thing to do, and looks bad, but it's hardly as concerning as this. But fact is, had Gus Douglas just held his party at the Culture Center for free, the $8,000 bill wouldn't even exist.

    But if Douglas is submitting false documents, and making loans based on false documents, my tax dollars are being wasted. He clearly had no problem hosting an $8,000 retirement party and passing the bill to the next man. It's not far fetched to think he did some other shady stuff, too.

    Do you think wasting $8,000 on a retirement party is a good way to spend your tax dollars? I don't understand why you're defending Douglas, then talk about Helmick paying a bill for a party Douglas hosted.

    I don't favor Helmick or Douglas, but I'm glad Helmick doesn't just hand over money (more then half the yearly salary of a full time min. wage employee) to pay for someone else's frivolous spending. Had he paid that hotel bill on time, we never would of known about Douglas spending tax dollars on something he was directly told not to do.

    • Mtmama

      Valid points. But I would venture even a small agency such as AG spills more than $8,000 each day. And the hotel is still out $8,000. Give Commissioner Helmick a medal and pay the damn bill.

  • Polly the Pundit

    I just noticed that there are 39 comments about some running back coming back to WVU but only 13 about possible impropriety in a State agency...and we wonder why we get duped into the messes we are in...

    What would happen if people got more interested in how their government is ran as opposed to how someone runs around in a game? Gee, things may actually get better...

    "Fuhball been berry, berry good to Weh Burginia..."

    • CaptainQ

      Polly, why are you so surprised?

      THIS IS WEST VIRGINIA!

      People care more about the Mountaineers/Thundering Herd than they EVER do about politics. Could THIS be why so many state lawmakers get reelected every time? Maybe all state political candidates would get more attention if they strapped on football helmets or hit the court and played some 'three-on-three' together?

      I don't know, Polly. Politics in THIS state has more drama than a soap opera and more 'plot twists' than a Stephen King novel.

      • Scott

        Because it doesn't matter nothing is ever going to change.It doesn't matter wether it's Dems or Reps they are all for themselves and party.Just look at last to Presidents both totally stupid

    • GregG

      Maybe some people would rather know all the facts before making comments. Being a person that has on occasion been guilty of "broadcasting" when I should have been "tuning in", I think I'll wait until we know the all of the story.

      • Hillbilly

        Amen to this .. +1

      • Polly the Pundit

        Excellent point...My point was similar in that the other post had all kinds of people posting the pros and cons, what ifs and how this running back would impact the team - when this news story could be discussed and should be discussed by the citizens. For the Senate President to refer to the loan program as, "...friends and family..." would, to me, indicate that some folks got preferential treatment and/or got money(ies) that maybe they weren't entitled to. A Legislative Audtor's report should be a public record subject to FOIA.

        Simply put, it would appear that people will get "fired up" over a football story and be passively complacent while the State crumbles around them.

  • TheFungoKnows

    Worried about pennies in the Dept. of Agriculture, when millions of $$$ are being wasted at the WVDHHR. Liberal democrat smoke and mirrors.

    • John

      Amen to that!!!!!!!!!!! See that all the time with my own eyes!!!!! What a WASTE of our TAX PAYER$$$ WVDHHR is most likely the worst!!!!!!!!! A good engineer would save the state MILLIONS$$$$$$$$$. ++++++ some!!

    • workerbee

      + another 1

    • zero tolerance

      +1

  • rick

    The auditors office is notorious for making mountains out of molehills. They present things in the worst possible light and then in the next paragraph say.."but that is not illegal." I would wait for a full investigation to see what really happened before I take this report at face value. Then the chips can fall where they may.

    • cutty77

      Yes Most Times The Smeller The Feller.

    • GregG

      I'm with you Rick, let's see what unfolds. Everyone stay safe and warm today.

      • Hop'sHip

        Can't accept anything you say, GregG. Medman tells me you are a negative and hopeless person. You need to find a rich person in your life to fawn over. That's the secret to a purposeful life.

        • GregG

          Good point Hops, I guess I could go out and purchase a Duck Dynasty t-shirt & hat, slap a I support Phil Robertson sticker on my truck and my life would have meaning. I'll check into that.............on the second Tuesday of next week.

  • JTC

    Arch Moore and Wally Barron, not just a democratic issue.

  • Jesse's girl

    My reactions to this “bombshell” echo most of the prior postings. What I wonder is: What was going on between Helmick and Douglass that caused Walt to “drop a dime” on Gus?

    And, Miley is all hot and bothered about Democrat politics as usual? Must be the continuing brouhaha over Lincoln and Mingo Counties is having an effect on Democrat polls. Not only are long-time Democrats of the House and Senate suddenly opting for appointed state positions, but now they are turning on each other and pointing fingers. Hmmmmm.

    It is mind-boggling to hear Tim Miley refer to the policy as a “friends and family loan program.” Wonder if Tomblin who bought his wife a school and an “honorary” degree to go along with it or his constant rewarding of his mother’s and his dog interests with legislation and state monies is the least bit nervous?

    Miley further bleats that “it appears to have very little, if any, policies and procedures that have been followed in awarding these loans.” Really? And? This sounds like the West Virginia policies and procedures I have seen for more than 60 years. Nothing new here except Democrats having a problem with it. Curiouser and curiouser.

  • Wowbagger

    Just another argument for term limits and a vital two party system to keep all parties honest.

    At eighty + Mr Douglass dates back to an era where the rules for both Democrat elected officials and some high level appointees in West Virginia were a lot more malleable. A few Republicans tried to bend or break the rules too, but soon learned that the rules were different for the minority party.

  • Medman

    There have been longstanding rumors regarding his personal relationship with certain employees and how things were being managed. No surprises here.

  • Brian

    It seems the longer someone holds a public office, the more they feel they are above, entitled, allowed to play by their own rules.

    Another example, in my view, of why we need term limits at both the state and federal levels.

  • Mtmama

    Unbelievable that the democrats would investigate another democrat. First time in history. You need to realize that they are picking on Gus Douglas because he is 80 years old and they are using the cover to single out AG Morrissey for very partisan legislation. Grow up and get over it. The people of West Virginia elected Morrissey and he is doing a good job. There are much more pressing Needs and issues than trashing Morrissey. If they want to do something worthwhile make Walt Helmick pay the hotel bill he owes in Charleston.

    • Hillboy

      I don't follow how this provides cover for anti-Morrissey legislation. Could you elaborate a little?

      • Mtmama

        Hill boy just my opinion but the attacks on Morrissey are clearly partisan driven because he is a republican and if they can say they are also going after Douglas who is a democrat then it will appear more non partisan. Morrissey generally has done a good job and has done what he said he would do. He should have stayed away from abortion because it brings out the braying yentas screaming women's rights. So he brought some of this on himself. But he is being singled out because he is a republican.

        • Hillboy

          thanks, I haven't been following the attacks on Morrissey closely and won't dispute their partisan nature. not sure how much cover the Gus Douglass flap provides unless Morrissey is being accused of something similar and we are talking about an insignificant amount of money.

    • J.R. Skene

      First time in history? How about the impeachment of SOS A. James Manchin? Better look again.

      • Mtmama

        He lost $300 million of the state's taxpayer money. House indicted. he resigned before the senate could act.Didn't spend a day in jail. At least one of his employees did, kept his pension and was allowed to run for office again as a member of the house of delegates. You are right but not the best example. As much money as he lost somebody should have investigated.

        • Scott

          Why so worried about a hotel bill I'm sure they'll make it up in the next political dinner,and if not the basketball state tournaments is coming up stayed at your prized hotel last year and I can promise you never again

        • pc

          Believe A. James was state Treasurer, not SOS, when his office "lost" hundreds of millions due to "bad investments"!