Justice says he has recommended outgoing adviser Bray Cary to WVU’s board

Gov. Jim Justice confirmed that he has recommended outgoing senior adviser Bray Cary, a former media executive who was at the center of a heated dispute over West Virginia University athletics broadcast rights a little less than a decade ago, to a position on WVU’s board of governors.

The appointment still must be approved by the state Senate. Cary would take the place of William Wilmoth for a term that runs until June 20, 2025.

Justice alluded to efforts to avoid conflicts of interest between the Governor’s Office and what would be Cary’s new position among those who steer the state’s flagship university.

Cary went off the state payroll in March and said he packed up his office a couple of weeks ago. Justice’s appointment letter is dated June 29. The bylaws for the WVU board of governors prohibit anyone on the state payroll from serving.

“I just recently made the recommendation to put him on the board of governors at WVU. We don’t want to have any kind of conflict there,” Justice said.

Bray Cary

Cary earned two degrees from West Virginia University: a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in public administration. He was commencement speaker for WVU’s December 2000 convocation and is a past member of the WVU Foundation Board of Directors and the WVU Board of Advisors.

“With this appointment, Gov. Jim Justice has ensured the West Virginia University Board of Governors is well positioned to continue providing essential direction and guidance amid a changing higher education landscape,” said Tom Jones, chairman of the board of governors, in a statement provided by the university.

“I know the rest of our members join me in welcoming Bray Cary as we share our deep appreciation and thanks to Bill Wilmoth for his years of dedicated service to WVU and its Board of Governors.”

If Cary is named to the board, he would join his former business partner in West Virginia Media Holdings, Marty Becker, whose term ends in 2023.

Additional notable members of the board are investor Charles Capito, husband of Senator Shelley Moore Capito, as well as Elmer Coppoolse, chief operating officer of The Greenbrier, the resort owned by Justice and his family. Their terms end in 2022.

Another of Cary’s traditional business allies, Drew Payne, is chairman of the Higher Education Policy Commission, which governs higher education in West Virginia. Payne was also an owner of West Virginia Media Holdings.

West Virginia Radio Corp., parent company of MetroNews, filed suit in 2013 in an attempt to block a lucrative contract for broadcasting WVU sports from going to IMG College and subcontractor West Virginia Media Holdings.

Cary and Payne, who was chairman of the WVU board of governors at the time, were named in the lawsuit, which alleged “fraud, collusion and the palpable abuse of discretion” to steer a 12-year contract worth $110 million.

Also named in that lawsuit was David Alvarez, a West Virginia Media Holdings investor and a board of governors member then and now.

One of the allegations in the lawsuit was that the WVU Foundation, where Cary had served, loaned $7.7 million to West Virginia Media Holdings in 2001. Six years later, in 2007, the stock was sold for just $2.7 million, inflicting a “disastrous” loss on the foundation, the suit alleged.

“The foundation’s investment was wholly improper under West Virginia law and its own stated rules because it did not benefit WVU, but instead benefited private individuals who also served on its board,” the suit alleged.

The lawsuit was settled in 2015.

Cary has served as Governor Justice’s senior adviser for the past three years. Justice today said he hopes the advice will continue on an informal basis.

“Bray’s contribution was invaluable. As often as he would like I hope Bray will come back and talk about matters that won’t have anything to do with WVU or anything like that,” Justice said.

Cary, in a telephone interview Monday, said he is leaving to pursue a broad set of ventures meant to help new business leaders flourish in West Virginia.

“My goal when I first came back to West Virginia was to try to create jobs and opportunity in the state. One of the things I really missed, as wonderful as government was — one of the things I realized is that I think there’s still an opportunity to create companies and jobs and opportunities for lots of people in West Virginia,” Cary said.

Meanwhile, Justice said he wants to maintain the senior adviser’s role at a $90,000-a-year rate and with a set of duties still developing.

West Virginia’s median household income is $46,711.

Roman Stauffer

Roman Stauffer, a former acting director of the state GOP who led Justice’s campaign for re-election, announced Monday that he has been named senior adviser.

Jordan Damron, communications director for the administration, confirmed the pay amount and said there is no written job description. The position is called senior adviser for federal affairs and outreach.

Asked about the senior advisor role during a briefing today, the governor said Stauffer will serve as a trusted sounding board while also focusing on federal dollars flowing to the state.

“What he’ll be doing is, Roman will be liaison with our federal partners and money coming out of Washington, D.C.  He’ll be working on a lot of different aspects and a lot of different things, and everything. Roman has a lot of experience, Roman and I worked really well together. And I have a lot, a lot of confidence in Roman as well,” Justice said.

“From the standpoint of that adviser position, to be more right to the point, I think just from the standpoint of a constant communications line, confidence in one another and from the standpoint of me trying to surround myself with people who have good ideas that are smart people and everything and can come up with a creative idea we might miss.”

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