AG's $180,000 award to Tomblin's wife's college raises eyebrows

By Steve Korris | Apr 13, 2006

Darrell McGraw

Earl Ray Tomblin

Joanne Tomblin

CHARLESTON – When a leader in state government gives money to the wife of another leader, eyebrows will rise.

It happened March 29, when Attorney General Darrell McGraw awarded $180,000 to the nursing school of Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College.

College president Joanne Tomblin, wife of Senate President Earl Ray Tomblin, accepted $60,000, the first of three annual payments, from McGraw.

Tomblin assistant Raamie Barker expected some static over it. In an April 12 interview he said the marriage of Senate president and college president bothers some people.

It doesn't bother Barker, partly because he went to their wedding.

Barker said he taught Tomblin in a Chapmanville High government class. He said, "He was a good student and a good person."

He said he and Tomblin have relatives all over Logan County. He said, "Between the two us, we are probably related to two thirds of the people in Logan County."

Barker called Joanne Tomblin the best college president in the state and said, "If she was not married to Earl Ray Tomblin she would have gotten whatever grants are out there anyway because she is a consummate professional and a dedicated leader."

He called Southern West Virginia's nursing school the best in the state and said, "It is a highly sought after degree."

The money for the school came from a $10 million settlement between McGraw and drug maker Purdue Pharma in a suit over abuses of the painkiller OxyContin.

McGraw's freedom to spend Purdue Pharma money upsets some legislators. They tried in March to pass a bill to deposit proceeds of state litigation in the general fund.

They argued that McGraw crossed into the legislature's territory by appropriating state funds. Their bill did not advance.

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