Gregory’s Web

November 19, 2013

Readers are, frankly, overwhelming me. And it isn’t easy to overwhelm yours truly.

As all readers know, I make an email address and cellphone number available to them. I always have enjoyed interaction with readers — and I still do. I just wish I could keep up.

While calls come from all over the place — including, last week, the University of Montana — most are directed toward the goings-on in Mingo County.

I am accustomed, in this line of work, to perhaps five phone calls a week. Here, I am getting a minimum of 10 a day, not to mention the emails and text messages.

As my closest friends can tell you, I am not the most organized chap coming down the block. It is difficult for me to keep up with what I’m being told; let alone find my notes on it all.

So, if someone has called with a hot, juicy tip and I haven’t mentioned it here, I likely forgot or lost it. There’s nothing wrong with calling me again to remind me. In fact, I would appreciate it.

…. The story last week on Jo Vaughan losing her state job brought a number of reactions, as did the one on Howard Mullens, who was transferred from the state Division of Highways to the Division of Tax and Revenue.

Vaughan herself called to complain that there were inaccuracies in the stories. I did a follow-up with her version of events. Some of her supporters complained that I had taken a “private post” on Facebook and used it in the newspaper. How in the name of all that is holy anyone can think that a post on Facebook is “private” is beyond me. If Vaughan didn’t want the world to know she was terminated, she shouldn’t have written about it on social media.

On the other hand, some also called to complain that I had taken Mullens’ side against the co-worker who accused him of sexual assault. Beats me how they figured that.

One told me that I “took a swipe” at the accuser by listing her as the widow of a now-deceased attorney general candidate. Again, I fail to follow that logic. As far as I know, her late husband was a first-class man and there is no reflection on her by simply saying she was married to him.

Of course, I have no idea what happened between Mullens and his accuser, but if her supporters are anywhere near accurate, she would appear to have a whale of a case. They insist there is video documentation of the alleged “attack.” If that’s true, it should be a slam-dunk case.

Denise Gould, who accused Mullens of the attack, and her supporters, apparently believe they have “dozens” of other current and former employees who will make the same allegations against Mullens.

Frankly, I wonder — if there is video evidence and dozens of others — how Mullens is hanging on to a job at the statehouse. Perhaps the governor and his staff are unaware of it.

…. Speaking of being unaware, sometimes I wonder if media questions of the Tomblin press staff simply fall into deep holes somewhere.

In what is not the first example of similar treatment, I called the press office last week to ask what seemed like a simple question. I wanted to know if, as had been reported to me, a governor’s staff photographer took pictures of Vice President Joe Biden and local dignitaries at the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner held recently.

The press staffer said, “I don’t know but I’ll find out and call you back.” If the photos were taken, I told her I wanted a list of whose pictures were snapped. It seems to me that if a public employee takes pictures as part of his or her official duties, that photo is public information.

As of week’s end, no answer has been forthcoming from the governor’s office, though.

Perhaps those who had their pictures taken with Biden would just as soon the public didn’t know?

…. One lady who called last week told me she is 84 years old and “was surprised” to get a live voice when she called. “I expected an answering machine,” she laughed.

She wanted to tell me how much she enjoys the column but also wanted to know if, in my quest for forgiveness which I wrote about last week, I had tried “groveling” to the person I offended.

I told her, “not yet, but that’s on the agenda.”

…. I had a lengthy call from new Mingo County Commissioner Mike Carter last week. In addition to giving me his phone numbers and email address while assuring me he will heed the advice to be open and transparent with the press and public, Carter assured me about 15 times that he only does “what the Lord leads me to do.”

That might be a good policy for everyone.

Meanwhile, new Prosecutor Teresa Maynard still has not returned calls from a month ago. Apparently, she believes openness and transparency do not reach to the media. As noted here last week, there are a few questions she might want to answer before winning the universal trust of the public.

Maybe the Lord could tell her to call me.

…. If I had even a dime for all the Mingo folks I’ve been told have received “target” letters from the federal government or made trips to appear before the grand jury in Charleston, we could retire this column.

Last week’s revelation was that a legislator had gotten a “target” letter and it all involved some real estate deals. Target letters are written by federal prosecutors when someone is being seriously looked at for violations of the law.

I suppose only the federal authorities and the legislator know for sure whether such a letter was sent to him.

…. Lincoln County voters supported continuation of a school levy in Saturday voting. The measure passed by about a two-to-one margin.

My friends at The Lincoln Journal reported that only three precincts voted against the levy, and in one there was a tie (only in Lincoln could you have a tie).

Lincoln Assessor Josh Brumfield, a former Boone County school administrator, drew the ire of some levy supporters by telling the public how much their taxes will increase next year. Critics said Brumfield was trying to defeat the levy, although it kept rates the same as in previous years.

As far as I know, Brumfield did not take an official position on the levy.

…. With interim legislative sessions planned for this week in Charleston, there were rumors last week that Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin would call a special session. However, sources close to the governor said that would not happen.

One key Democrat legislator said, “Unless it’s some emergency with the cracker plant, why would we need to meet in special session when the regular session starts in January?”

That logic has seldom slowed down previous governors.

* * * * * *

Senior gubernatorial aide Raamie Barker, former editor of The Logan Banner, often lectures me that readers “don’t want to know what’s going on in your personal life; they want facts and rumors.”

Here’s a fact, then: Barker’s wife, Bunny, who works in the state treasurer’s office, was involed in a traffic accident at Alum Creek last week on her way to work at the Capitol.

Thankfully, Bunny Barker was thought to just be shaken up. She stayed overnight for observation at Charleston Area Medical Center’s General Division and was then released to her loving husband and family.

It is rumored that Raamie Barker got the title, “senior advisor to the governor” when a scribe left the “citizen” that was supposed to follow “senior” off his name plate.

Now, that’s a rumor.

…. What is wrong with legislation passed some time back that allowed for the building of lodges at Cacapon and Beech Fork state parks?

…. Kanawha Circuit Judge Tod Kaufman gets the “honor” of presiding over Judge Michael Thornsbury’s civil case. Last week, he ruled that State Police Trooper Brandon Moore and Gilbert policeman Nathan Glanden cannot be dismissed as defendants.

In her lawsuit, the plaintiff alleges that the former judge sexually harassed her, wrongfully fired her and intentionally inflicted emotional distress.

Thornsbury is continuing to argue that the suit should be dismissed because he was not properly served. As I said earlier, it’s great of the judge to fight for every letter of the law being followed.

* * * * * *

Keep the rumors, story ideas and comments coming. Use the email or continue to call my cell, 304-533-5185.