Public business must be carried out in the open.  That’s self-evident, but it still does not always happen.

The latest example of the failure of a local government in West Virginia to be open about the public’s business comes from the Nicholas County Commission.

Last August, the Commission hired Roger Beverage as the county administrator at a salary of $60,000 a year.   A local citizen, Tim Clifford, challenged the hiring, claiming the Commission acted illegally.

Clifford, who represented himself in the legal fight, took the Commission to court, and the court took the Commission to task. The state Supreme Court appointed Webster County Circuit Court Judge Jack Alsop to hear the case, and Alsop unloaded on the commissioners.

Alsop found, among other things:

–The Nicholas County Commission violated the state’s Open Government Proceedings Act.  Beverage’s job description and guidelines about his responsibilities distributed to county employees “were neither discussed nor approved during an open county commission meeting.”

–Beverage violated the state Ethics Act when he was allowed to create his own job description and formulate his salary.  Additionally, the job description was not created until “a significant time after the hire” and he drafted that description to parallel his own qualifications.

–Judge Alsop said, “The Commission’s failure to adopt a job description prior to hiring a County Administrator, in addition to allowing Mr. Beverage to create the job description and salary for a job in which has unquestionable economic interest, is blatantly improper.”

–The County Commission sought to modify their form of county government without following procedures established by state law.

Judge Alsop ordered the hiring of Beverage be rescinded and the position of County Administrator be eliminated.  Additionally, the Judge ordered the county to pay the costs Tim Clifford incurred bringing the action.

County Commissioners are part-time public officials, so it’s understandable that they may not be intimately familiar with every chapter and verse of the state’s open meeting and ethics rules.

But what happened in Nicholas County was a series of gross violations of the kind that undermine the public’s confidence in their local government.  There’s an appropriate place to conduct the public’s business, and that’s in public.

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  • griff

    we need to get commissioners who are concerned with the county not themselves. Really Roger Beverage got knocked down a couple of notches

  • griff

    Thank you Mr Clifford for pursuing this & getting it out in the open. Hope how the co commissioners terms expire

  • Stand Corrected

    There's a black sheep in the pile. (Republican, Short, Sorry)

  • DP

    FOUR DEMS involved-how surprising! I congratulate you Mr. Clifford for challenging this disgusting BS! The citizens of Nicholas Co. should be very proud of you!!!

    • Stand Corrected

      Short is a Republican!

    • Fed up

      The President is a Republican, Mr Short

  • Fed Up

    U r correct Greg but these type of things seem to be the
    norm in this state.

  • Aaron

    "County Commissioners are part-time public officials, so it’s understandable that they may not be intimately familiar with every chapter and verse of the state’s open meeting and ethics rules."

    Part time is no excuse, particularly when they have access to legal advice.

  • Silence Dogood

    Beverage is a democrat that ran for sheriff in 2012. Nicholas County Commissioner Ken Altizer is a Democrat. Dr. Short and Miller, the other two Co. Commissioners,
    are also democrats.
    WV democrats loves them some corruption!!

    • Fed up

      Short is a Republican.

  • Fed Up

    This was nothing but good ole boys politics, West Virginia style.
    Surely by now people ought to know that most all politicians operate this way in this state..

    • GregG

      Operating in an unethical manner isn't limited to politics.

  • granddad

    Nice job Judge Alsop!

  • Silence Dogood

    I bet it is safe to say that Mr. Beverage and the Nicholas County Commissioners are all Democrats. Exactly the way WV democrats act. Corrupt to the core.

  • leroy j gibbs

    just look to clarksburg re morals and city government

  • Silas Lynch

    Then we shouldn't have replaced "morals" with ethics--- That's when it all went awry...

  • GregG

    Ethics? Hoppy, that word has gone the way of the Dodo bird.

  • CaptainQ

    Well Hoppy, welcome to Local WV Government 101. I'm sure this sort of thing isn't exclusive to Nicholas County, it probably happens all over this state with amazing regularity.

    We only hear about it in the news when someone gets 'caught.'

    • Silas Lynch

      .... And you believe this doesn't go on at the Federal level?....

  • Bill Hill

    It isn't only Nicholas County. The same type of unethical conduct is happening in Hardy county. The situation is different, but in reading your commentary, the unethical behavior is almost identical. When people put their dependence in politicians, this is what happens more times than not.