|By Lawrence Smith|
CHARLESTON - A former member of the Clay County Business Development Authority is alleging the Authority is hiding from the public important information about its activities.
Michael D. Boggs filed suit against the Authority in Kanawha Circuit Court on Feb. 17. In his complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief, Boggs, 45, of Maysel, alleges the Authority improperly conducted business for the last three years due to a lack of membership, and removed him from the board when he demanded they open their books.
According to his suit, Boggs was appointed to the Authority's board of directors in 2007. Since then, Boggs alleges the board rarely, if ever, had the members necessary to conduct business.
In his suit, he quotes state law saying that agencies under the control of a county commission must have a board of directors consisting of no greater than 21, but not less than 12 members.
Despite having less than 12 board members, Boggs alleges the Authority's board still conducted business, and made important decisions.
Among those include paying a $30,000 salary in 2009 and 2010 for an economic development specialist. In those same years, Boggs alleges the Authority also spent $15,000 for "financial and non-financial support" for "recruiting, hiring and compensating" the specialist.
The name of the specialist is not stated in the suit.
Also, Boggs alleges the Authority sometime in April or May last year approved a land use master plan, and submitted it to the Office of Coalfield and Community Development.
Later, on June 3, the Authority authorized Amanda Moore with the Clay County Economic Coalition to act on its behalf in administering a local economic development grant from the state Development Office.
The suit does not provide any additional details about the function of the CCEC or its membership other than Moore.
Furthermore, Boggs alleges the Authority has failed to publish information for which it required by law. Among those include quarterly reports from 2008-2010 of itemized receipts and disbursements to the Clay County Commission, and its annual reports during those same years of all its activities.
According to his suit, Boggs alleges on an unspecified date after his re-appointment to the Authority's board in July he was terminated for his refusal in "remaining quiet about the above-mentioned statutory violations."
Also, he avers that the Authority committed additional violations of state law in his re-appointment by appointing him on a month-to-month basis rather than a three-year term.
Though it is unclear if he made it before or after his removal from the board, Boggs maintains he made a request of information about the Authority on an unspecified date from Clay County Clerk Connie Workman. According to the suit, Workman told Boggs the information would be ready for him later that day.
However, when he went to get it, Workman informed him she could not release it until told to do so by Clay County Prosecuting Attorney Jim E. Samples.
When Samples failed to provide a legitimate reason why Workman could not release the records, Boggs filed suit to force their disclosure in Clay Circuit Court.
The suit in Clay County was dismissed following a determination the state Development Office had an interest in determining the legitimacy of some of the funds it gave the Authority. Along with the Authority, the Development Office and the Commission are named as co-defendants in Boggs' suit.
Kanawha Circuit Court has original jurisdiction in suits involving state agencies.
Along with an order releasing the information he's requesting, Boggs seeks reimbursement of attorneys fees, and court costs. He is represented by Charleston attorney David R. Karr Jr.
The case is assigned to Judge Charles E. King Jr.