(11/05/2002)
West Virginia education officials are beleaguered with what appears to be ethical violations, misuse of public funds or actual stealing. Problems first surfaced with former State Superintendent of Schools Hank Marockie, who was accused of improprieties and left the head post. The problems have continued.

In recent weeks, State Board President J. D. Morris and Assistant State Superintendent G. A. McClung have resigned following alleged money problems.

J. D. Morris, the former president of the state Board of Education, stole money from a student loan agency and from customers of the Clay County Bank, where he was president for 15 years.

Standing before U. S. Chief District Judge Charles Haden, Morris' attorney Wayne King of Clay acknowledged the well-known civic leader and businessman took money from a student loan organization, the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency. The fund guaranteed college loans to students through the Clay bank.

Morris could face a fine of one million dollars, a prison sentence up to thirty years and five years of supervised release when he is sentenced in February, 2003. The sentence will be greatly reduced.

Morris was originally charged with taking $172,000, but that amount appears to have been reduced after an audit of bank records, according to Susan Arnold, assistant U. S. Attorney. Morris has repaid $172,000.

The court questioned the relationship between Morris and his attorney Wayne King, described as longtime friends. King has also represented the Clay County Bank. Bank records were reportedly lost in a fire that destroyed the attorney's office in Clay earlier this year.

King and Morris agreed with the court to waive possible future complaints that could arise, related to conflict of interest.

Morris had been associated with the bank for nearly fifty years and was a member of the Clay County Board of Education for 27 years. He was appointed to the State Board of Education by former Governor Cecil Underwood, after the longtime Democrat registered independent in 1998.

Morris was also a member of the School Board Building Authority, which is now under investigation along with assistant superintendent G. A. McClung, who was asked to resign this week.

Problems have surfaced regarding a contract McClung gave to friend Phillip "Pork Chop" Booth to replace furniture in flooded southern West Virginia schools. Furniture was reportedly sold at several times its actual market value, according to a preliminary investigation. The investigation will also include a multi-million dollar contract awarded Agsten Construction for clean-up after the floods.

The State Board of Education will have an emergency meeting Wednesday to discuss the matter.


Hur Herald from Sunny Cal
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