The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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January 23, 2013

Beckley mayor’s state ethics hearing postponed once more

An ethics hearing has been postponed yet again for Beckley Mayor Emmett Pugh, who is accused of violating the Ethics Act by using his public office for private financial gain.

The West Virginia Ethics Commission confirmed that Pugh’s hearing, scheduled for Jan. 28 in Beckley, has been delayed and a new date has not been scheduled.

This delay was created when Martin J. Wright Jr., deputy counsel for the Ethics Commission, left the agency earlier this month to accept a position in the West Virginia Attorney General’s office.

Pugh said the Commission will have to find a new attorney and allow him or her to get up to speed on the case.

“I’m disappointed because we were ready to present our case. We just have to wait and see. The hearing has been canceled and who knows when it’s going to happen. I’m under the impression that there will be a status conference at the end of February to find out where everyone stands.”

Pugh is being charged with nine counts of ethics violations, including the use of public office for private gain, accepting improper gifts, use of a public office for own private gain and private gain of another, and prohibited interest in public contracts.

The complaint alleges that in return for providing public contracts with the city of Beckley and free use of the city’s resources, including material and labor, Pugh was “financially rewarded with gifted ownership interests in companies resulting in private gain of more than $12,000.”

The Probable Cause Review Board also alleges Pugh inappropriately used a vehicle leased under the Beckley Sanitary Board.  

The alleged violations were made public knowledge in April and Councilman Chris Hall wrote a letter to the Ethics Commission in June, urging a formal hearing to be scheduled as quickly as possible. He said a resolution to this conflict would allow council members to return their full focus back to the needs of city residents.

At the time then-Ethics Commission Director Theresa M. Kirk initially anticipated a September hearing, but in early October, the Commission announced a Jan. 28 hearing date for Mayor Pugh.

“When it first happened, it was a hindrance,” Pugh said. “But I think we’ve kind of gotten over that. I still maintain my same position that in no way, shape, or form have I used my office for personal gain.”

When a new date is set, it will be posted online at www.ethics.wv. gov.

— E-mail: wholdren@register-herald.com

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