CHARLESTON, W.Va. — More than 60 employees with the state Department of Transportation have sought employment exemptions from the state Ethics Commission since the October 2017 passage of the “Roads to Prosperity” amendment by state voters.

The commission approved 12 additional exemption requests at its Thursday meeting in Charleston, putting the unofficial total of requests at 63 since the commission’s November 2017 meeting.

MORE exemptions approved Thursday

Most of the requests over the past 14 months have come from state Division of Highways engineers seeking jobs in the private sector. State law doesn’t allow state workers to seek jobs with private employers that are either regulated by or have contracts with their agencies. An exemption is required. The Ethics Commission approved all 12 requests Thursday. Engineers in the private sector are generally paid better than those employed by the state.

The “Roads to Prosperity” program will fund $1.6 billion in road and bridge construction projects in the Mountain State. Several projects have already been completed with dozens more on the way over the next few years. Supporters have said the work will create thousands of construction jobs in the Mountain State. The state sold $800 million in bonds on Wall Street last May.

Of the 12 exemptions approved Thursday, four were from engineers, along with a few supervisors, a director and assistant director. An exemption request from DOH General Counsel Jonathan Storage was also approved.

State Ethics Commission Executive Director Rebecca Stepto said most officials and state workers seeking exemptions say they “will be ‘adversely affected’ if the exemption is denied because they cannot, for financial reasons, afford to quit their current State job before they start looking for other employment.”

Stepto said all DOH employees who requested exemptions in 2018 were granted one-year exemptions after she had granted them temporary exemptions.

The DOH hasn’t said how employees it has lost since the road bond was approved.

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