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Ron Gregory ronjgregory@gmail.com

March 24, 2014

Meanwhile, back at the ranch: Matt and Chester were outside doing target practice while Miss Kitty prepared beans and stewed greens on the wood-fired stove. Doc Adams was taking a day off from medical practice to catch some fish in a nearby pond while … wait a minute, WRONG Marshal; wrong ranch.


This week, a West Virginia supreme court spokesperson emphatically stated that there is NOTHING in West Virginia state code to allow or describe the duties of a “county marshal,” a “county court marshal,” or a “Mingo County Court Marshal.” So, if a Mingo “marshal” becomes riled when someone refuses to tell him or her where he or she is going upon entering the Mingo County courthouse, I’m not sure if the marshals can arrest the citizen on the spot. A public flogging of the violator is probably permitted, though.


The supreme court spokesperson also said that yours truly is “certainly correct” in saying that no law enforcement person or anyone else is entitled to ask, “where you going?” and expect a response from any citizen. Particularly in a public building, such interrogation could be viewed as harassment and an attempt to intimidate the citizen walking in the door. That Mingo County “marshals” apparently do not understand this may be one of the reasons the county has and maintains the reputation it has.


I want to go back and state, for the record, that I think the vast majority of Mingo Countians are honest, sincere, humble people. Most are the salt of the earth, frankly. Anyone should be proud to call Mingo County home. But the gestapos and thugs give county citizens cause to wonder. This IS, after all, the county where the sheriff was gunned down in broad daylight across from the courthouse only months ago. This IS, by the way, a courthouse that has a long, long history of unrest and legal and civil disobedience dating back past the days of the Hatfields and McCoys.


The Mingo County Democrat Executive Committee recording secretary worried at a public meeting recently that she and others might have been in trouble if they violated the “rules” of a “code three” emergency. The fact that, in West Virginia at least, there is legally no such thing as a “level three” or “code three” emergency didn’t deter her. No, she was concerned that a legally-called meeting of the committee while a “code three” emergency was in effect might have called for everyone to be arrested “because of all the things that have gone on here.”


Yet, she and others have no problem being checked at the courthouse door by “marshals” when there is no such thing in the state. I realize that the disgraced former Circuit Judge Michael Thornsbury may have created these positions by court order. I also understand that Thornsbury is going to jail for similar shenanigans while a judge. Just because Thornsbury “ordered” it does not make it right; just ask his former legal assistant.


If I was a Mingo County official, at this point I would make every effort to abide by not only the letter of the law but the spirit as well. If these “marshals” are employed by the county commission, as the sheriff says they are, then I would take steps to properly identify what their positions and duties are. Included in that list would not be an opportunity to harass those who enter the courthouse, a building owned and paid for by the taxpayers of Mingo County.


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The creation of anything new often causes some problems and concerns. Many were skeptical when Chapmanville Regional High School was created, since it was an experiment in uniting students from two counties at one high school. The state included the Harts community in Lincoln County as a part of the CRHS attendance area, along with the Chapmanville section of Logan. By and large, the experiment has been a success. Harts area students and those from Chapmanville are hardly distinguishable once they get to CRHS. Both towns consider CRHS “our” school.


There will always be concerns, however. When CRHS made the state boys basketball tournament for the first time in their seven years of existence last week, an effort was made to send students from the two feeder middle schools to their opening game in Charleston. Harts Middle and Chapmanville Middle are clearly the feeder schools for CRHS. Despite the best intentions from Logan School Superintendent Phyllis Doty, however, the Harts Middle students were not allowed out of class to attend. Harts Middle is physically located in Lincoln County.


Doty offered Lincoln Superintendent Trish Lucas everything she could think of, including tickets to the game; transportation by Logan buses; meals and a side trip to the state capitol for “educational” purposes. Lucas refused, although she told me she had not heard any offer of the capitol tour.


Lucas was adamant in her position and I truly believe she feels she was in the right. She noted how many instructional days the students have missed this school year because of inclement weather. She said she would not have excused the Harts students, no matter who was playing in an athletic event. Knowing Lucas as I do, I believe her. Still, it is troubling.


Earlier this school year, Harts folks were in an uproar on social media because the substitute CRHS public address announcer introduced Chapmanville Middle football players as “the future of Chapmanville High School” at a CRHS home game. There was no mention of Harts Middle players but it turned out a communications problem caused that upset. CRHS did try to get the Harts Middle students to the game to be introduced but a substitute teacher failed to deliver the message at Harts.


But situations like this are not helping to promote harmony between the two communities. I respect Lucas; I would trust her absolutely with my grandchildren or yours to make the decisions in their best interests. But, sadly, I think she was plain wrong on this one. The Harts Middle students should have gone to Charleston to see “their” high school play. THAT would have been “instructional time,” in my view.


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On the subject of CRHS, Larry Dingess, an assistant Tiger basketball coach, is circulating a petition he says would “solve the problems.” Dingess proposes to make the Harts community a part of Logan instead of Lincoln County. Some expressed concern when the school was created that Lincoln voters had no voice in the Logan school board and, thus, no recourse to the ballot box if they felt wronged. Dingess would correct that problem as well, he says. The move would put Harts Middle in Logan County.


Those interested in helping Dingess or signing the petition can contact him either at home or on his cell. The home number is 304-855-7033; his cell is 304-784-0963.


For what it’s worth (a lot, of course), I think Dingess has the right idea here.


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Speaking of educational efforts in Logan County, the rumors have been rampant for some time that the state department of education is taking a long, hard look at how the county system operates — or doesn’t.


One interesting rumor is that a school board desk was taken to a board official’s home and later discovered. When located, the official is said to have expressed concern that the desk “might have been stolen” if left unattended on board property.


“So, she decided to steal it before someone else did,” chuckled a board critic when repeating the story.


I had a great deal of confidence in former Superintendent Wilma Zigmond, who I found accessible and open with respect to her decisions. Zigmond was also a positive force in the development of CRHS. Doty has led a board of education that has basically ignored the breaking of legal and athletic regulations by coaches. Perhaps no jury will ever find Logan Boys Basketball Coach Mark Hatcher guilty of any violation of the law. I have said that, in Logan County, I doubt that they will. But there is no question SOMETHING happened when Logan and Scott played at CRHS in December 2013. There is no confusion about whether Hatcher was arrested or not; he was. Yet one would think the Logan school board and its administration are on some other planet with regard to the issue.


Allan Hatcher left his team bench during his son’s arrest across the street and has not been publicly reprimanded in any way. That means, I suppose, that any coach can just decide to leave his team any time, anywhere, I suppose. Under state law and West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission (SSAC) rules, the head coach has some responsibility for the safety and conduct of his or her players. How was Allan Hatcher looking out for his players when he was across the street at the police station with his son? Can the legendary coach see through walls and distance? He’s good but I sort of doubt it. Will he jump off a bus transporting his players to a game if his son gets in trouble again?


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Despite ballyhooing their efforts to curb “pill mills” in the Mountain State, one might ask state legislators exactly what they have done to further the cause. Except for supporting any bill the West Virginia Coal Association and/or the National Rifle Association (NRA) come up with, southern coalfield Democrats can be counted on for little else.


And, in case nobody saw it, House Speaker Tim Miley admitted the 20-week protect the baby bill would never have been passed during the recent session “except that it’s an election year.” Translated, that means even the liberal Speaker knows that if columns such as this one and truthful news articles had not appeared before the voters, the coalfield Democrats would have continued to tell voters they are “pro-life” while playing footsie with pro-choice elements in Charleston.


That also means that YOUR state legislator is not likely to move any other pro-life bills in the immediate future. One can always maintain a close to 100 percent pro-life voting record if bills remain bottled up in committee and never hit the floor for a recorded vote.


Teary-eyed coalfield legislators with touching personal stories do little to help the pro-life cause.


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Surely it is time for me to confess some personal indiscretions but I can’t think of any new ones. Perhaps we should just re-run The Charleston Gazette’s numerous editorials about how worthless I am. Despite the fact that their “editorials” contain almost nothing of substance, it seems Facebook and Topix enemies love to drag one or more up every time I hit the nerve of a public official. The truth always hurts; that’s why Gazette opinions never bother me. Mingo Delegate Harry Keith White opined that “there are rumors about his (my) background circulating at the capitol.” Hmmn, Delegate White. There are rumors circulating about your PRESENT in Mingo County.


The Gazette once mentioned that I “have been seen regularly around the county with (a woman employee of mine) in his car.” Both of us were married to other people at the time, which has never been a real barrier for me. At least the female and I had something in common: we were both married. I hope nobody missed that article. It should definitely be re-run on social media to further confirm my reputation.


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Surely I can figure out something to say about Boone County, now that the legislature is adjourned. Oh yeah, Daniel Boone was reported to be very ineffective in the Virginia assembly. Is that good enough?


Frankly, I admire most Boone public officials and think they do a reasonably good job. I have never been asked at the door of the Madison courthouse, “where you going?” so perhaps the marshals have not worked their way that far north.


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Credit most local television stations with getting it right when it came to CRHS’s appearance in Charleston. It may have helped that most of them and I have discussed the fact that CRHS is just seven years old. That gets nowhere with the Morning Sickcall and almost no place with the Charleston Daily Mail. It is far easier and a much better story, as I have said, to insist the Tigers made their “first boys state tournament appearance in 85 years.” The fact that it is untrue hardly matters, just ask Mark Martin.


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Does it bother anyone but me that the “doll” for First Lady Joanne Tomblin is being cast by someone from out of state? I have trouble understanding why a state artist could not be found by the esteemed Director of Culture and History Randall Reid-Smith to do the job. Perhaps for the same reason that bottled water from another state is generally served at receptions at the Cultural Center. This is the same historic preservation group that chased native West Virginia entertainers like George Daugherty from the capitol’s musical presentations. “The Earl of Elkview” is welcome at most places in the country, but hardly overwhelmed with invitations to this state’s events.


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And, finally, could there have been some kind of conspiracy behind the phantom two-point shot that put CRHS IN the state tournament to begin with? Surely, it isn’t possible that game referee Joe Oliverio conspired with himself to deny Scott’s three-pointer. Remember that Governor Earl Ray Tomblin lives at Chapmanville and is a Chapmanville High graduate. Hmmmn, just wondering.


Tomblin is, of course, a great guy and an honest public servant, so I am only joking. He and his buddy, CRHS Football Coach George Barker, did watch most of the Tiger loss to Bluefield, however. As he left, the governor posed with Chapmanville fans and lifted a “number one” index finger for the photographer.


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Story ideas, rumors, comments and even facts are welcome. Use my email address or call me on my cell, 304-533-5185.