CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Bray Cary may be a man of few words.
Gov. Jim Justice’s senior adviser has never made a speech or appeared in a press release.
His hiring was never announced. Cary still doesn’t appear on the Governor’s Office website as an official staffer.
He has led meetings, but the public hasn’t been in them.
And an examination of Cary’s publicly-available written communications shows that he’s often on the receiving end of notes but rarely says much himself.
“Great job everyone!!” from an email at 8:16 p.m. Feb. 9 is an example of the brevity of Cary’s written communications.
Or, at 11:36 p.m. April 17: “Well done!!”
It’s not necessarily a problem, of course, to be short and sweet.
The issue is that, with Cary, it continues to be a challenge to describe what his role is, what his responsibilities are or what his accountability to the public is.
“I am not on the take,” Cary said in a Dec. 9 Charleston Gazette-Mail article after his presence in the Governor’s Office first became apparent.
“My loyalty is to the state of West Virginia, period. I am not taking anything out of here in confidence. I am not acting on anything, and if you find something that you think … you should just call me directly, and I will answer that question directly.”
Cary hasn’t spoken publicly since.
West Virginia MetroNews made a Freedom of Information Request for all public records of Bray Cary while serving as a volunteer or employee of the Governor’s Office.
The request included, without limitation, any records of meetings, electronic communications and correspondence that in any way relates to his duties or activities in capacity as volunteer or employee of the Governor’s Office.
What came back was 77 pages of emails.
Few were from Cary. Most were communications in which he was a recipient.
His own actual communications were about half a dozen.
None were about EQT, the natural gas company where Cary is a board member with millions of dollars in stock and six-figure compensation. Nor were any directly about natural gas issues such as joint development or severance taxes.
The reason for the request was that Cary’s role has become, by many accounts, central to what the Governor’s Office is doing.
But his authority also hasn’t been clear.
Cary has not responded to interview requests — placed through the governor’s communications staff and through his own cell phone — to elaborate on what his role is.
When Cary moved from an unpaid volunteer to making minimum wage on May 11, Justice administration general counsel Brian Abraham said the move was made to reduce confusion.
“As we saw a need arise for him to interact with agencies or outside the office, we didn’t want to continue to create the confusion,” Abraham said. “We thought it would be better to make it an official position.”
Asked if he could describe the organizational chart for the administration, Abraham said, “The governor has directed us to act collaboratively with the chief.”
Abraham elaborated that the governor would be in the middle with Cary, the senior adviser, on one side and Abraham, the chief counsel on the other. The chief of staff would serve under the governor.
The emails released late last month by the Justice administration show that Cary is involved in a variety of work. But they’re not very revealing about what his role is.
He does not appear to use an official West Virginia government email address. Instead, Cary uses his old email address for West Virginia Media Holdings, the television network he led for many years.
Sometimes his email signature still identifies him with West Virginia Media Holdings.
His dispatches are to the point.
“Very impressive and a tribute to great leadership!!” he wrote Jan. 30 in response to Gen. James Hoyer of the West Virginia National Guard, who had provided a report about forces deployed to support the 2018 presidential State of the Union address. “Our state and country thank all the men and women of the WV National Guard.”
There were several communications this past March about the long-term housing need in West Virginia after the 2016 floods.
Jimmy Gianato of the state Division of Homeland Security and Hoyer each suggested a followup talk.
“Any time,” Cary responded to a March 9 email chain.
On April 6, an email exchange showed the Division of Forestry had increased its revenue from timbering.
The first email was sent by State Forester Barry Cook, who had apparently attached a file. Commerce Secretary Woody Thrasher responded: “That’s terrific Barry.”
Cary chimed in: “Woody, Please send file. Bray.”
An April 17 exchange shows state officials preparing for a meeting with representatives from U.S. Housing and Urban Development over issues with federal long-term flood relief funding.
“We need Mary Ann!!” Cary typed, an apparent reference to MaryAnn Tierney, the regional administrator for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
“She’s coming,” Abraham responds.
Of Cary’s few written communications, the shortest was sent out at 9:29 a.m. March 28.
He appears to have simply typed in the word “Bray.”