Delegates cannot vote when not present

February 5, 2014

Psst! Let’s keep this just between us, OK? In other words, don’t tell anyone what I am about to tell you.

… If the purpose of “Buck Wild,” the television show, was to portray West Virginians as backwoods rednecks, they couldn’t have done a better job than Mingo County Commissioner Hootie Smith with an email last week.

Smith allegedly sent the email to David Boucher of the Charleston Daily Mail “and other members of the media.” Inasmuch as I am not the clean-up hitter for Team Mingo, Smith apparently does not realize I am a part of the media.

While he got the email off to the Charleston papers, my copy came by way of being forwarded by another newsman who received it. So much for Smith and fairness and equality. As Team Mingo’s top elected county official, one might expect Smith to at least have used something close to good grammar, spelling and punctuation. However, that would not be the case. If one had to put “sic” everywhere it is needed in Smith’s email, they would be sick … er, sic … forever.

That is not to say I and newspapers do not occasionally misspell a word or make an error in grammar. We do, but Smith’s email would be nearly incoherent if one did not already know what he was trying to say.

His first sentence is illustrative of the entire document.

“As president of the commission I just received a complaint from Colie Kelly who stated that he called our county clerk’s office and inquired the filing fee for magistrate then proceeded to mail his paperwork and check in to the clerk postmarked appropriately.” Yes, that is one sentence. Want to define the nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs for me? Can anyone figure out the subject?

Then the next sentence is apparently a continuation of the previous run-on one.

“Only to receive a letter that his application had been rejected by the clerk, Jim Hatfield because his filing fee was five dollars short,” he wrote. Huh? That’s a good one, as well.

Next, the commissioner informs his audience that Kelly claims he was told the wrong amount for a filing fee by a Hatfield employee. Since the chief deputy clerk Judy Harvey’s husband is running for the same job, Smith jumps 5,000 miles to the conclusion that there is a conspiracy to deprive Kelly of his right to run for office.

Incredibly, Smith, chief architect of Team Mingo, the faction that has been called “corrupt” by fellow Democrat U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin, has the audacity to say, “I feel this is only the beginning of corruption in the 2014 election to control the list of candidates.” One can only guess that Smith might be speaking from experience.

Smith asks the “media” to investigate how Kelly’s constitutional rights are being tampered with and adds in an “O.S.” that he has also contacted the secretary of state’s office. It is assumed an “O.S.” is what other, less-educated people, refer to as a “P.S.” for “postscript.”

In making his self-righteous pronouncements, Smith ignores the fact that Hatfield immediately contacted the secretary of state and prosecuting attorney when he saw that Kelly’s check was $5 short. He also ignores the fact that Hatfield told all involved that he wanted to put Kelly on the ballot if he could.

In somehow determining that a county clerk has “discretion” in whether to abide by the law that says the total filing fee must be paid by the filing deadline, the secretary of state and Mingo prosecutor allowed Hatfield to get $5 more from Kelly and put his name on the ballot.

Please remember in the future that paying filing fees in a timely manner is at the discretion of the clerk. If you want to run for sheriff, have only $5 and want to send that in, apparently the clerk or secretary of state can let the remainder of the filing fee slide until your rich relatives will some money to you. Incredible all the way around.

Still, nobody minds setting new precedents in Mingo County elections. The commissioner cannot write a coherent sentence and believes the law should be ignored if he wants a candidate on the ballot. Prosecuting Attorney Teresa Maynard wrote to Hatfield, “I reiterate my position that I would err in favor of Mr.Kelly and provide him a short period of time in which to correct the problem as I have been unable to find any law that would prevent you from doing so.”

No law does prohibit it unless one considers the West Virginia Code section that says the full amount of the fee must be paid before the filing deadline to actually be “law.” I assume Maynard has little regard for that “green book” in her office that contains the West Virginia Code. It says nothing about any “short period of time” to correct the “problem.”

I have no problem, personally, with Kelly. Still the law is completely clear. The entire filing fee must be paid by the deadline, which was at midnight Saturday. It is not discretionary if it says “must.” And the candidate has some responsibility to determine what the filing fee is for himself.

Waiting until the last possible minute and mailing an application from Huntington does not leave room for errors to be corrected. But now Smith, Maynard and Secretary of State Natalie Tennant somehow think it can be done. Let’s just ignore the entire constitution and acts of the legislature and see how that works.

Oh, yeah, in the Mingo prosecutor’s office they’ve already tried that.

Quoting directly from a letter signed by Timothy G. Leach, assistant counsel to Tennant, and sent to Hatfield is self-explanatory. “Perhaps a literal reading of the code involved will cause you to conclude that you cannot accept a partial payment which can later be paid in full. That is a matter for your determination. Certainly we are aware of occasions when minor deviations from the exact letter of the law have been permitted.”

Oh really? Tell someone on death row the law against them can be “deviated” from and let them loose. Is there a difference between “deviating” from the law and “breaking” it? Dismiss a “literal” reading of the code in favor of just twisting the law to suit whatever your purpose may be.

And Tennant wants to be a U.S. Senator who takes an oath (as she already has at the state level) to abide by the constitution. So what if she occasionally “deviates” from it? Hopefully, she will not interpret the constitution “literally.”

Now I understand how the married woman I had an affair with in Lincoln County can assert that we did nothing wrong. Following moral and Bible principles is “discretionary,” and one should dismiss any “literal” interpretation. Goodness, do I ever feel better now.

Likewise with the girlfriend who said fornication is OK. It’s all up to “discretion” when one follows Christian principles, too, I suppose.

… In another weird situation, the state House of Delegates rejected a change in their rules that would have allowed those on active military duty to vote while absent.

The original proposal was clearly written for the benefit of Republican Delegate Joshua Nelson of Boone County.

As noted here previously, Nelson is on active military duty and has been absent from the entire regular House sessions in 2014. He is not actually expected to return before the session ends in early March.

Nobody that I know questions Nelson’s devotion to serving his country. Nobody that I know wonders whether Nelson is a true patriot. All agree that he is.

Nevertheless, painting those who opposed the Nelson rule change as “unpatriotic” is simply not correct. As Cabell County Delegate Kevin Craig so eloquently put it on the floor of the House, Craig and others served in the military before they made it to the legislature. Craig said he never bragged about doing what he needed to do for the United States and he had never even mentioned his military service on the House floor until that day. Yet, Craig said he would oppose the rule change for many reasons.

Craig told his fellow delegates he could envision staying at home in Huntington while voting electronically in the House. That way, he said, he’d never have to face a constituent on some hot issue or take the time to listen to opposing points of view. Craig’s speech made a great deal of sense. I do, however, think he was a bit off-base in saying roles in the military and the legislature could be “conflicting.” I just don’t see that.

I have said, however, that I would have voted to let Nelson vote from his post. I reiterate that here. But, as I said, those who voted the other way are not “unpatriotic” and disloyal to their country. They voted to keep the rule that has lasted 150 years. They saw no need to change it.

I wish Nelson was present to cast his votes. He cannot be. A determination has been made. Voters will decide whether to return a potentially nonvoting delegate to his House seat in November. At least, nobody can say they are in the dark about what the rules are.

There are some conspiracy theorists who believe that since the upper echelon of the West Virginia National Guard is Democrat, it is intended to keep Nelson on active duty while the legislature is in session.

Just letting you know it is an idea that’s out there. Again, keep it to yourself, for Pete’s sake. Or for Joshua’s.

Actually, just don’t repeat anything you read here. Please.

… I do want those who keep telling me Logan and Boone counties have as many problems as Mingo to know that I understand that is possible. However, Mingo does so well at it that I have to devote extra space to them right now. Eventually, you will hear more about behind-the-scenes maneuvering in Logan. And Boone, Sue Ann.

… Although an astute reader thought I had mistakenly left Robert H. Carlton off the list of those running for circuit judge in Mingo last week, I pointed out that this column must be completed by Sunday and Carlton’s paperwork did not arrive in the secretary of state’s office until Monday.

Carlton’s filing means there are now four Democrats running to replace disgraced (or is it “graced”?) former Judge Michael Thornsbury. Carlton, Jonathan “Duke” Jewell, Teresa McCune and Miki Thompson are all running.

Carlton is an outstanding candidate and would do well as a circuit judge. I would not intentionally omit him from any list.

Nor would I ever make a mistake. Well, I actually did. One in 1972 and another in 1986. Or maybe they were just “deviations.” Oh yeah, that’s the ticket: deviations.

… A reader who I dearly love made a comment on the legislative voting. She said the rules should be the same for members of the military in the legislature as they are in regular voting.

Again, that position seems impossible to support. Military members voting in a primary or general election have literally weeks to do so. If the legislature adopted such a policy, there would never be another bill passed because there wouldn’t be enough time to do it. Wait a minute, no bills passed? That might be good after all.

In addition, the same sweetheart who suggested that form of voting would likely be totally opposed if Tennant announced she was going to accept electronic votes in a regular election.

I still adore her. My friend; not necessarily Tennant.

My favorite person also suggested how to clean up the chemical problems before anyone in government did so. Her simple idea has been made more complex by public officials but is still almost exactly what they are now suggesting.

Great job, honey, and I always knew you were the smartest.

… When a friend called me “level-headed” and “fair-minded” to an acquaintance last week, I immediately demanded a retraction or threatened to sue her for defamation of character. I’ve worked for years to convince folks I am neither one.

… Del. Ted Tomblin of Logan County has introduced legislation further attacking the so-called “pill mills” in the state. Tomblin is a hard-working delegate who represents his constituents well.

… Several of the complaints I haven’t gotten into include family court judges.

Suffice it to say, I understand that can be a thankless job. But when a family court judge uses his or her position to dictate political favors with children as the pawns, I am disgusted. When a family court judge uses his position of power for personal and sexual gain, it is simply not acceptable.

As I have mentioned here in the past, at least one family court judge is guilty as charged; perhaps more fit into at least one of the accusations. If I was an honest, fair family court judge, I would not be offended by my comments in this regard. If I was not, I would be cleaning up my act as quickly as possible.

In most cases, plenty of others know what has — and is — being done. It should stop and the voters will soon decide if they sanction it in the first place.

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Rumors spread rapidly through the statehouse at the end of the week regarding one of our coalfield legislators. He was said to be “in big trouble.” We will see, I guess.

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Speaking of rumors, keep them coming. Also get me your comments and story ideas. Use the email noted here or call my cell phone at 304-533-5185.