The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Latest News

May 10, 2013

Pugh ethics violations case: Settlement outcome could be resignation

Hearing postponed until June 6 so parties can reach an agreement

— If a settlement agreement is reached in Beckley Mayor Emmett Pugh’s ethics violations case, a number of outcomes are possible, including that he could be asked to resign.

A hearing was set to begin May 1 in Beckley, but was postponed after counsel for both sides filed a motion for a month continuance to reach a settlement agreement. The agreement, if reached, must be presented at the next regular meeting of the West Virginia Ethics Commission on June 6.  

Joan Parker, executive director of the West Virginia Ethics Commission, said the sky is the limit on what can be included in a settlement agreement.

“Parties can get creative with and agree to things that aren’t necessarily in the statute,” Parker explained. “One time, in lieu of a fine, a negotiated settlement was that an elected official or public servant was able to make a charitable contribution, but he wasn’t allowed to take the tax deduction and it had to be anonymous.”

She said that’s an example of something the commission couldn’t order, but could be applied through a settlement agreement.

“We had a situation a few years back with the mayor of Pratt, who as a condition of her settlement agreed not to run for public office for I think

10 years, or to seek public employment for that time.”

She said there are variations on what parties can agree to, but if the case were to go to a hearing and the commission establishes that violations of the Ethics Act were committed, the commission can impose certain sanctions.

“The commission could impose sanctions, like a public reprimand, a cease and desist order, a $5,000 fine for each violation, or restitution.”

For example, she said, the commission prosecuted a former mayor who authorized an expense reimbursement to himself that the hearing examiner concluded he was not entitled to. He was ordered to make restitution to the city for the reimbursement he obtained in violation of the Ethics Act.

“Another thing the commission could order is that a respondent repay the commission for the costs of the investigation.”

Any expenses that the commission may have incurred, such as staff travel expenses, hiring an expert witness, payments to a court reporter or hiring a private investigator, could be charged to the defendant if he or she is found guilty of ethics violations.

“Those are the sanctions the commission could impose and the final one is that the commission is authorized to make a recommendation for the removal from office or termination of employment, but it is not authorized to remove from office or terminate an employee.”

She said even though the commission does not have the authority to order the resignation of a mayor, the parties could agree to that by way of the settlement agreement.

If the parties are successful in their negotiation, they will present, in a closed adjudicatory session following the public meeting June 6, a proposed conciliation agreement that the mayor will have signed. If a majority of commissioners vote to approve it, then the chairperson will sign off on it and sign the order and it will become a matter of public record.

However, if the parties are not able to come to an agreement to propose to the commissioners, or if they reach an agreement but the commission rejects it, then the hearing will resume at a later date.

Pugh is charged with nine ethics violations, including the use of public office for private gain, accepting improper gifts, use of a public office for his 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.

— E-mail:

Text Only
Latest News
  • Judge in W.Va. asked to delay gay marriage ruling

    Attorney General Patrick Morrisey has asked a judge to postpone ruling on a federal lawsuit challenging West Virginia's same-sex marriage ban until the U.S. Supreme Court reviews a ruling in a similar case in Virginia.

    July 30, 2014

  • Tri-state coal interests rally before EPA hearings

    More than 2,000 union workers and others organized by the coal industry in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia joined top state elected officials Wednesday to rally against proposed stricter federal pollution regulations for coal-burning power plants.

    July 30, 2014

  • Work continues on stand-alone Warrior Trail

    The executive director of the Hatfield and McCoy Trail Authority said Tuesday that officials are still working toward the creation of the stand-alone Warrior Trail in McDowell County.

    July 30, 2014

  • East River Mountain Tunnel repairs will continue for several weeks

    Motorists traveling Interstate 77 could see slight delays again tonight as repair work continues inside of the fire-damaged East River Mountain Tunnel.

    July 30, 2014

  • State leaders to attend coal rally in Pittsburgh

    West Virginia officials are set to join hundreds of coal miners and coal supporters at an electricity and energy jobs rally.

    July 30, 2014

  • Americans continue to be plagued by debt

    Credit card debt may have reached its lowest level in a decade, but according to a recent study on personal debt vs. income, just as more people are paying off their credit card debt monthly, nearly the same number of people are being reported for unpaid bills. 

    July 30, 2014

  • twvcheck Theatre West Virginia gives back to hospice

    Theatre West Virginia, even with its shortened season this year, has found a way to give back to the community. Mike Cavendish, a past board president at TWV, presented Hospice of Southern West Virginia with a check Thursday for over $1,000. 

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • Former Summers County commissioner indicted

    The Summers County grand jury handed up indictments against 17 individuals this month, including one against a former county commissioner. 

    July 30, 2014

  • Weaker prices widen second quarter losses for Arch Coal

     Arch Coal Inc. said Tuesday that its second-quarter loss widened partly because of nagging rail disruptions and weaker prices for coal used in making steel, though cost controls helped the coal producer’s latest earnings surpass analysts’ expectations.

    July 30, 2014

  • pasiley Watery delight

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo