CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Gov. Jim Justice says he trusts Bray Cary.
Cary, a former media executive, was one of Justice’s biggest critics during the 2016 election. He’s also a board member for the natural gas company EQT, with millions of dollars in stock holdings.
And now Cary is senior adviser for Justice, earning $8.75 an hour.
“Bray Cary is the most unlikely person in the world to have a bond with Jim Justice. Nobody on the planet beat on me worse than Bray Cary beat on me through the election process and everything. And Bray called me about everything you could possibly call somebody.
“So how? How is that. Well, you see, I don’t carry bad thoughts with me. I don’t. And really, truly, Bray Cary is an extremely talented man that genuinely loves our state. Bray Cary truly makes not one single dime being here but he works his tail off, and he’s a worker, and he’s got knowledge.”
Justice said he tries to use that knowledge.
“The most unlikely of friends in the world, and I’m using his knowledge.”
Cary has been on EQT’s board of directors since 2008, which means he would have a fiduciary responsibility to the company. Cary also leads EQT’s corporate governance committee. Last year, he made $367,860 in cash, stock awards and other compensation, according to EQT’s report to shareholders.
Cary bought several rounds of shares of EQT stock about this time last year. The largest was a purchase last June of 22,627 shares valued at $1,209,186.
Justice said he has not seen ethical transgression.
“Never one time, never one time do I feel like there is any type of conflict with EQT. Nothing,” Justice said. “If we get into a natural gas discussion, many times he has excused himself. Many times I’ve said ‘Bray you shouldn’t be in this and everything.’
“But really and truly, never once, never one time has he asked me even remotely think that could be tied or a favor for anything for EQT. Never one time.”
Justice spends many of his days away from the Capitol, often near home in Greenbrier County instead. In his Friday press conference Friday, Justice described checking in with Cary by cell phone at all hours.
When legislative Democrats put out a statement last week that Justice should resign if he can’t demonstrate that he’s more committed to his job, Cary’s involvement was an aspect.
“The Governor’s Office has been plagued by dysfunction,” House Minority Leader Tim Miley, D-Harrison, stated. “The Governor has failed to pay his taxes, failed to place his assets into a blind trust and 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.”
Justice said on Friday that those who are connected in the business world are likely to be under scrutiny when they enter public life. He used himself and his own broad business holdings as an example.
“It’s just this simple guys. You’ve never had a governor that has this many tentacles all through everything that I have,” Justice said. “I’ll never possibly be able to please you on every single thing all the time. I say, constantly, look at the body of work.”
Justice said Cary — with his media executive background and his status as a natural gas company board member — is the same way.
“Bray Cary is a successful guy. He’s done a lot of work. He’s got a lot of knowledge and everything,” Justice said. You’ll be able to find something about him that you could report or say something bad about.”
Part of the context that caused Cary’s situation to be brought up was that the governor and his chief counsel had just been describing the investigation of a private businessman who had gotten close to the Department of Commerce over investments involving China.
“The individual associated with that is an outside party that had also been working with Commerce,” said Brian Abraham, senior counsel in the Governor’s Office. “We heard some information within that that didn’t make sense. One thing leads to another, leads to another, leads to another.
“Then that caused us to go ‘Why is this person behind the curtain at Commerce if they’re an individual on the outside?’ That created an ethical dilemma.”
Cary began with the Governor’s Office as a citizen volunteer and worked that way for months, with an office, a parking spot, a Capitol entry card and the ear of the governor.
In early May, the Governor’s Office put Cary on the official payroll at $8.75 an hour.
At that time, Abraham said the move was meant 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.”
Since that change went into effect, Cary’s time sheets have been marked 9 a.m. to noon. Those in the Governor’s Office say he works much longer hours than that.
“I tell you, he could probably file a claim against us because he works — Bray probably, realistically works 80 hours a week,” Justice said. “He’s working all the time.”
He’s been receiving checks for $26.25.
Justice said Cary is worth every penny.
“I am just saying to you no way, no way in the world should we do anything but applaud Bray Cary for coming in here and doing all the good work he’s doing because he believes in the goodness of West Virginia.
“What is he getting out of this? What is he getting out of it?” Justice asked rhetorically. “I mean, $8.75 an hour for 15 hours? I mean, what is Bray Cary getting out of this? Do you really think he’s after power or influence or whatever it may be? Or maybe he’s trying to sneak something by me as far as EQT?”
Justice said that will never happen.
“I’m working all the time. They know it. There’s no way in the world Bray Cary is going to sneak something by me. There’s no way in the world people are going to sneak stuff by me, they’re just not going to do it.”