(12/31/2016)
UPDATE 12/27/2016 - The locks have been changed on the Clay County Development Office, with its director Pam Taylor removed, in addition to its official board, which reportedly consisted of "a tight knit family group."

Taylor caused a nationwide stir after she posted on Facebook that it was refreshing to have a beautiful first lady (Trump) in the White House, as opposed to "a ape in high heels (Obama)." The Appalachian Area Agency on Aging has taken over the Clay County Development Corporation as of Tuesday morning.

Ramona Stanley with the Appalachian Area Agency on Aging will manage the Clay County Development Corporation for the next six months or until a new executive director is hired.

There is an agreement signed with board of directors effective Tuesday.

Stanley will work to make sure all senior services continue, strengthen the board and their financial stewardship.

There will also be possible bylaw changes and AAA will have authority to adjust salaries.

The board of directors of the Clay County Development Corporation met last week and sent letters to Pamela Taylor and her two sisters, removing them from their positions with the non-profit. Taylor's two sisters were both employees.

CLAY DEVELOPMENT GROUP UNDER INVESTIGATION

12/14/2016 - Within one month's time of a Clay County woman posting a controversial Facebook racist statement about First Lady Michelle Obama, petitions have garnered hundreds of thousands of signatures calling for her resignation.

The Facebook posts were first published by the Clay Communicator and the Hur Herald, but then were picked by by state and national media, and went viral.

The Hur Herald, as a direct result of helping break the story, had nearly a half-million visitors.

All eyes turned to Clay County, Pamela Taylor, the woman who posted the comment, and her employer, the Clay County Development Corporation.

Now state media is saying that investigators are looking into the finances of the Clay group which has received several millions of tax dollars for financing Clay County projects.

The Clay board president announced this week that Taylor has been reinstated.

In the town of Clay, even one month after the controversy started, the phones at the courthouse have not stopped ringing and frustration on Main Street can be found on any corner, according to WSAZ-TV.

Taylor's comments have now triggered an investigation by the Bureau of Senior Services.

"Then also people have said things and sent us things, and we just want to make sure that what we see is what's really going on," said Commissioner Robert Roswall with the Bureau of Senior Services.

Commissioner Roswall met with leaders at the non-profit Wednesday behind closed doors, looking at finances and practices.

While some are hoping the investigation uncovers the truth behind the allegations that have been circulating for years within the county, others fear it will lead to doors being closed permanently and jobs lost in a town and county with an already hurting economy.

UPDATE 12/14/2016 - Gov.Earl Ray Tomblin announced Tuesday that state officials may reconsider contracts with Clay County Development Corporation, the nonprofit group that the Gazette-Mail reported on Sunday would allow a director who made a racist Facebook post about First Lady Michelle Obama to return to her job.

The governor also announced that the state Bureau for Medical Services and Bureau of Senior Services sent a letter to the board chair of the nonprofit on Wednesday, requesting copies of affirmative action and anti-harassment plans and policies. The state is asking for "specific guarantees" that Pamela Taylor, the director who called Michelle Obama an "Ape in heels," has not discriminated against recipients of state services.

"The State of West Virginia vehemently opposes any discriminatory and harassing sentiments, language or actions," said the statement from the governor's office, released Tuesday morning by the governor's spokeswoman Jessica Tice.

"The Clay Development Corporation is not a state entity," the statement continues. "As the state does in many other regions, two state agencies the Bureau for Medical Services at the Department of Health and Human Resources and the Bureau of Senior Services have contracts with the Clay Development Corporation to provide essential services to West Virginians. As a result of recent comments made by the Corporation's director, Ms. Pamela Taylor, we have been and continue to review those contracts to determine any alternatives the state might have."

* Clay nonprofit official who posted racist comment to return to work

12/13/2016 Ali Schmitz, Staff Writer Gazette Mail

The director of a Clay County nonprofit group, who was removed from her position after making a racist Facebook post about first lady Michelle Obama, plans to return to her job later this month, according to a letter from the agency's acting director.

Pamela Taylor, whose online post referred to Obama as an "ape in heels," is on suspension and is scheduled to return to work at the Clay County Development Corp. on Friday, Dec. 23, according to the letter from Leslie McGlothin to the West Virginia Bureau of Senior Services.

The state bureau's commissioner, Robert Roswall, has warned the Clay agency that any discrimination from staff would jeopardize their state and federal funding.

In a letter dated Nov. 14 the day media reports about Taylor's Facebook became widespread Roswall warned that "any discrimination of staff or the customers [they] serve" could cause the agency to lose funding from state and federal agencies. The organization received about $1.5 million in federal funding and $363,000 in state funding in 2014.

Neither Taylor nor McGlothlin has responded to multiple phone calls from the Gazette-Mail.

The Clay County Development Corp. is a private nonprofit organization, and Clay County's second-largest employer, according to a recent study from Workforce WV. The organization provides senior services and financial assistance to elderly and low-income residents of Clay County. According to 2014 U.S. Census estimates, one out of every four people in Clay County is living below the poverty level.

Taylor became the CCDC's director in 2007. She was paid $75,000 in 2008 and almost $83,000 in 2014, according to tax returns from the group. The previous CCDC director, Betty Stalnaker, made about $63,000 before she retired. The agency's board sets all salaries, according to Ramona Stanley, executive director of the Appalachian Area Agency on Aging, which supervises the CCDC.

The governing board has 12 members, including Taylor. Board members are unpaid, and vote on decisions that affect CCDC programs.

According to meeting minutes obtained through a public records request to the Bureau of Senior Services when Taylor was initially suspended, board president Eunice Thomas and board secretary/treasurer Donald Holcomb decided on Taylor's suspension. Thomas, Holcomb and other board members did not respond to requests for comment.

Before she became director, Taylor was briefly removed twice from her job at the CCDC.

In 1999, Taylor and two other employees lost their jobs when Clay Development's board was restructured. Within a few days, a judge ordered that all three get their jobs back.

Taylor said in a lawsuit deposition that she was removed from her job again in 2002 after she was accused of pocketing fundraising dollars, but was hired back after a few months.

In 2009, Clay Development listed the job requirements for the executive director position. The director was supposed to have, at minimum, a bachelor's degree with 10 years' experience.

Taylor said in a 2008 deposition that she attended Clay County High School and had no college education. Prior to joining the Clay Development staff in 1989, she was a cosmetologist.

It's unclear if the organization's bylaws have been changed. Clay Development staff members refused to give the Gazette-Mail the most recent copy of the bylaws. They said the only person who could give the records was McGlothlin.

Stanley said the CCDC does not have to release records related to personnel matters, but are legally required to release all governing documents on request.

Taylor has been sued twice by employees for wrongful termination. One suit was settled and one dismissed.

Brenda Baird, who worked for Clay Development as a bookkeeper from 2000 to 2007, sued after she was fired. In her lawsuit, Baird said she found discrepancies on tax forms produced by Taylor, then a new employee. She said she was told not to question Taylor's work and got a written reprimand after arguing with another employee about it.

Later in 2007, Baird said, she told a CCDC board member about employees getting raises that were double the standard amount, and some employees getting bonus checks. The board member told Taylor, who then accused Baird of "trying to get her fired," according to Baird's lawsuit.

By the end of the month, Baird was fired for "gross misconduct and insubordination." She had not been formally disciplined for insubordination since 2002, according to her lawsuit.

Baird sued Taylor and Clay Development, claiming that Taylor fired her because of her concerns and spread lies about her.

The case was settled out of court in 2009 for an unspecified amount.

Baird declined an interview request from the Gazette-Mail, citing a gag order when the case was settled.

In a deposition in the lawsuit, Taylor claimed Baird was the one who authorized the disputed bonus checks, not her. She also said Baird had made an effort to make Taylor "look incompetent" in front of other employees.

Another former employee, Janet Fitzwater, sued CCDC last year. Fitzwater worked for the CCDC as a secretary from 1998 to 2010. Her lawsuit was dismissed in March 2015. Fitzwater did not reply to multiple interview requests from the Gazette-Mail.


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