CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Governor Jim Justice has been on the go.
But a closer look at the governor’s public schedule also reveals some gaps.
A list of the governor’s public appearances was submitted this week as supporting evidence in a response to a lawsuit challenging the governor’s residency.
“A log of Respondent’s public appearances shows that Respondent has made 167 public appearances in Charleston during the past two years, and those are just his public appearances,” Justice’s lawyers wrote.
“These 167 public appearances belie petitioner’s characterization of an absentee governor who is never present at the seat of government.”
There were even more appearances beyond the state capital.
“The log further demonstrates that Respondent has appeared at well over 100 additional public events in 28 different counties throughout the State, thus eviscerating Petitioner’s portrait of a governor who has been holed up in some remote location, inaccessible to the people.”
So, that amounts to 267 public appearances over the governor’s term so far.
Additional math provides some context.
Justice was inaugurated Jan. 16, 2017.
From inauguration day to the day the residency lawsuit response was filed, Oct. 16, 2018, a total of 639 days passed.
If you calculate only work days, that’s 440 days for the governor on the job.
A public appearance doesn’t precisely equate to days the governor is working. He could be having staff meetings or reading documents, and that wouldn’t necessarily require a public event.
Of the public appearances, a closer look at the log shows that sometimes multiple events occurred on the same day. Some days there was one appearance. Some days there were none.
A count of distinct days of public appearances shows 192 total days.
The governor’s lawyers described a range of activity.
“These include the announcement of his education plan to school leaders, multiple updates on budgets, press conferences with coal leaders, press conferences on hardwood manufacturing, press conferences with China Energy, meeting with the County Commissioners Association, announcement of a new director of DHHR Drug Control Policy, speaking to the PEIA Task Force and many others.”
That was just in Charleston, the governor’s lawyers say.
Outside the capital there was more.
“He has made appearances throughout the state from McDowell County in the south, to the northern and eastern panhandles.
“These appearances include many stops on his Save Our State tour, welcoming Boy Scouts to the National Jamboree in Fayette County, visiting flood sites in Marshall and Marion counties, visiting several counties in support of his Roads to Prosperity campaign, attending the Governor’s Conference on Tourism in Morgantown, presenting Community Corrections funds in Wheeling, and speaking to teachers concerning their pay and PEIA in Obio, Berkeley and Monongalia counties.”
But a closer look at the log shows some periods weren’t exceptionally active with appearances.
For all of November 2017, there are only two public appearances listed. One is Nov. 10, “Governor Justice speaks at Appalachian Bible College” and the other was Nov. 13, “Governor Jim Justice China Energy press conference.”
The next month, December 2017, there were just two days of appearances listed.
The first was Dec. 4, “Governor Justice Press Conference to Discuss Recent Legislative Accomplishments and to present check to Wood County officials for Reimbursement for Fire Related Expenses.”
The next day, Dec. 5, included “Governor Justice Speaks at the WV Business and Industry Council’s Pre-Legislative Conference” then “Governor Justice and First Lady Cathy Justice Read ‘Night Before Christmas to Area Youth” and then “Governor and First Lady Cathy Justice Attend Joyful Night Tree Lighting Ceremony.”
That was it for the month.
The first week of July 2017 there was only one event listed.
July 3: “Governor Justice at Greenbrier Classic.”
The next event was July 9: “Governor Justice talks with Jim Nantz about Greenbrier Classic.”
The next event after that was July 12: “Governor Justice holds press conference with coal leaders.”
Justice has frequently described his own work habits as off the charts, no matter where he is.
This past June, when Democrats suggested he should resign, Justice fired back.
“I’m available 24-7 all the time. And you know what I do? I get it done,” the governor said at an event described on the activity log as “Jim Justice Press Conference.”
The prior day — when there was not an event reflected on the governor’s log — Democrats issued a statement saying the governor’s residency choice had contributed to executive branch dysfunction. They said he should quit.
“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,” stated Senate Minority Leader Roman Prezioso, D-Marion.
Later that month, House Finance Chairman Eric Nelson released his own statement saying the governor should reside at the seat of government.
Nelson distributed an opinion column headlined, ““Decisions are Made by Those Who Show Up.”
This August 28, the governor’s log reflected “Meet with Delegate Roger Hanshaw.” That was hours before delegates voted to make Hanshaw the next speaker.
The other top candidate for speaker was Nelson. The activity log showed he got no such meeting.