CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The top Democrats in the House and Senate are asking for Gov. Jim Justice to improve his performance or resign.
Senate Minority Leader Roman Prezioso and House Minority Leader Tim Miley put out a news release today saying, from their viewpoint, the forced departure of state Commerce Secretary Woody Thrasher was the last straw.
They contended that Justice has lost touch with the work in his administration because of his preference of performing his duties off-site.
“At a minimum, Governor Justice should be at work – and if he can’t be bothered to come to the Capitol to do the job that people of West Virginia elected him to do, then he should resign from office,” stated Miley, D-Harrison.
Justice responded later Thursday evening by saying he is focused on accomplishments for West Virginia.
He also blasted back at Prezioso and Miley, longtime members of West Virginia’s part-time Legislature. Miley is a lawyer and Prezioso is an educator.
“Shame on the lifetime politicians for their mean-spirited remarks calling for my resignation. These political lifers have been there forever, accomplished nothing, and kept us in 50th place,” Justice stated.
The governor said he works hard and does not intend to resign.
The release that prompted his response was on behalf of the Democratic caucuses in both houses.
“It’s just one scandal after another,” Prezioso, D-Marion, said in a telephone interview this afternoon.
Prezioso made reference to longstanding controversies over the taxes and debts owed by Justice’s businesses, the governor’s preference for performing his duties from his home in Greenbrier County, complaints about the administration’s willingness and ability to answer questions about the functions of government and recent concerns about whether West Virginia flood victims have received attention in a timely manner.
Miley issued a similar statement in the release.
“The Governor’s Office has been plagued by dysfunction,” Miley stated. “The Governor has failed to pay his taxes, refused to place his assets into a blind trust and has made several controversial hiring and firing decisions, including the hiring of an EQT board member and media mogul as a part-time minimum wage employee.”.
The most recent event to trouble Prezioso was the forced departure of Thrasher
“I think Woody’s a class act. He knows how to get things done,” Prezioso, D-Marion, said.
He said the last time he spoke with the governor was in January. Justice presented platters with Hershey’s Kisses and a “Happy Days” message to Prezioso, Miley, House Speaker Tim Armstead and Senate President Mitch Carmichael during his State of the State address.
Prezioso was critical of the governor for not being regularly present at the Capitol.
“For him to not be there just totally infuriates me,” Prezioso said. “It just goes 180 degrees against my grain.”
Prezioso was upset by reports of the Governor’s Office receiving calls and emails from flood victims when Justice had publicly said there was no way of knowing there was a problem with long-term relief.
“If he had been at the Capitol to get his messages, he might know,” Prezioso said.
Justice was elected to office as a Democrat but switched parties to be a Republican, announcing the move during a rally for President Donald Trump in Huntington.
A few weeks after the party switch, he fired his chief of staff, former Democratic Party Chairman Nick Casey. Casey received the news through a call from the governor while he was sharing an anniversary dinner with his wife in New York.
Earlier this year, the Justice administration parted ways with Arts Secretary Gayle Manchin, wife of Democratic U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, during a controversial dismantling of the Department of Education and the Arts.
“Governor Justice likes to fire people instead of accepting any blame that his absenteeism keeps him out of touch with what is happening at the Capitol,” Prezioso stated today.
Some Republicans have been critical of Justice, too. During the most recent legislative session, Delegate Mike Folk, R-Berkeley, was soliciting signatures to support Justice’s impeachment over his residency.
Another Republican Party official, Rob Cornelius of Wood County, on Thursday night put out a written call to move toward impeaching Justice. His memo also included support for impeaching three state Supreme Court justices.
“For once this isn’t about Party. It’s about making West Virginia great,” Cornelius wrote. “That starts with removing the dishonest and corrupt Justice administration.”
Justice has addressed some of the criticisms. On the question of where he lives, he has said he works hard no matter his location. And, he has said, he doesn’t really need to live in a mansion. The state Constitution requires the chief executive to live at the seat of government, though.
On the subject of his business debts, Justice has said over and over that they’ll be paid. The most recent time he made that promise was May 4. There have been no reports of progress since then.
“The lack of any work by our governor is destroying the productivity of state government. He should resign so someone else can do the real work of Governor – someone who won’t be content with just the title only,” Delegate Isaac Sponaugle, D-Pendleton, stated today.
“In life, if you don’t show up to work and pay your bills or taxes, then you’re called a deadbeat. Currently in West Virginia, you’re called Governor.”