Former House Education Chairman Jerry Mezzatesta wrote fake letters in a scheme to fend off allegations that he lied to the state Ethics Commission and the Kanawha County prosecutor, according to a report released yesterday by Speaker Bob Kiss and a legislative investigating committee.

Kiss said Mezzatesta's fake letter misled the public and investigators.

The letter purportedly showed that Mezzatesta did not improperly solicit state Department of Education grants with State Superintendent of Schools David Stewart.

Stewart recently defended Mrzzatesta, saying he saw nothing wrong with "double dipping."

House Speaker Bob Kiss, a longtime supporter of Mezzatestsa, apologized to the "citizens of West Virginia, the press and other governmental agencies."

The 90-page report has been sent to the Ethics Commission and Kanawha County Prosecuting Attorney Mike Clifford.

Ethics Commission investigators said they found no evidence that Mezzatesta orchestrated a cover-up.

Mezzatesta and his wife hounded two House employees for weeks, calling them repeatedly and pressuring them to tell investigators and Kiss the letter was authentic, says the report.

After initially lying to Kiss and investigators about the letter, House employee Shelda Howard said Mezzatesta called her at home and told her, "Now, you are one of my family," according to the report.

"At no time did I fabricate either of these letters, nor did I ever order or instruct anyone to do so," Mezzatesta went on record saying.

Mary Lou Mezzatesta, who works as a part-time House Education office assistant, told investigators that she ordered the fake letter to be created to "shut up" a Charleston Gazette reporter.

Mezzatesta has been removed as education chairperson and now says he is suffering from prostate cancer.