|OPINION AND COMMENT By Bob Weaver|
It has been a fascinating few weeks, the media revealing the not uncommon
practice of politicians and bureaucrats zealously dipping into the taxpayer
trough to get a buck.
We're not talking about basic salaries and benefits here.
We are talking about dividing up the seed corn.
From a quietly tucked bill to increase the State School Superintendent's salary at
least $60,000 a year, to the nearly half-million dollar salaries of the directors of
Wyoming County's Senior Center and the Northwood's Mental Health Center in
Sen. Billy Wayne Bailey, who works for the Wyoming senior center, has slipped a
cool $800,000 from the Budget Digest to Robert Graham, the director of the
center for whom he works, the half-mil guy.
Fading is concern over the salary of Lincoln County's senior service director Alice
Tomblin at $137,000 and her own CPA who makes about $75,000, and whose
operation provides few services to few people, according to the Bureau of Senior
Ms. Tomblin's center is appropriately chartered as the Lincoln County
Opportunity Company, Inc.
Then there is Delegate Jerry Mezzatesta, with ethics questions about drawing
two public paychecks, one from the Hampshire County school system as a grant
writer and another from the Legislature, a total of about $100,000.
Delegate Mezzatesta is the shaker and mover over the legislature's education
Mezzatesta and the Hampshire County school board agreed with the West
Virginia Ethics Commission in 1999 he would not dip into state funds, but last
month he went to School Superintendent President David Stewart for a $70,000
grant for his county, which he received without a written request.
Mezzatesta slipped a cool $1.1 million to Hampshire schools from last year's
The Digest is a fascinating exercise to maintain incumbents in Charleston,
although incumbents like Del. Bill Stemple who represent small counties get the
crumbs and are told the digest is capitated on population.
Mezzatesta's behavior has been similar to an action toy - when upset he would
immediately go into combat, slugging and firing weapons.
He surely must have broken his own tantrum record in 2004.
Nearly all these servants are well-connected to gubernatorial candidate Lloyd
Jackson, a former state senator, state school board member and "education czar
of West Virginia."
Jackson is the architect of consolidation and centralization in West Virginia,
closing community-based schools and moving local school board control to
Lincoln County, which Jackson claims is home while living in Charleston, has
been up in arms with the millionaire oil and gas businessman for several years.
So much so, the Democrat county elected a write-in Republican against Jackson,
although he returned to the Senate with votes from other counties.
Jackson's policies over school consolidation, a concept mostly forsaken around
America, have been like a steamroller over West Virginia's small
Now at stake is the most expensive school ever built in the state, the $30 million
Lincoln County school at Hamlin, which has involved closing community schools
and causing bus rides which sometimes exceed one hour and forty minutes one
Those policies, based on economies of scale, promised to save money and
provide better educational opportunities for children. They're doing neither.
While we haven't touched on Earl Ray's history with greyhounds and gambling,
the end result is my irrational decision - don't vote for anyone south of