Lawyer wants Tomblin's pay cut

By Jessica M. Karmasek | Mar 22, 2011


CHARLESTON -- The West Virginia Supreme Court on Monday eliminated an April 15 deadline for filings in a lawsuit looking to stop acting Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin from drawing a governor's salary and receiving other perks of the office.

The Court had set the deadline for state Auditor Glen Gainer's office to reply and for any others to intervene or file amicus briefs.

According to The Associated Press, the Court said it canceled the deadline because the case is ready for consideration without the filings.

New Martinsville lawyer H. John Rogers, in a filing received by the state's high court on Friday, argues it is unconstitutional for Tomblin to receive the governor's $150,000 salary.

The lawyer, on behalf of The Christian Patriotic Front, is petitioning the Court to bar Gainer from paying Tomblin.

"At most, Mr. Tomblin might be entitled to compensation at an hourly rate" for time spent acting as governor, Rogers said in the filing. "The State Auditor has no legal authority to determine on his own who the employees of the State are and what is the correct rate of pay."

In his filing, Rogers also argues that Tomblin can't draw the governor's salary, occupy the office in the Capitol or live in the Governor's Mansion without an act of the Legislature allowing him to do so.

"His 'day job,' as it were, is to serve as Senate president, and that is the only salary to which he is legally entitled," the lawyer said in his filing.

Tomblin, a Democrat from Logan County, took over for now-U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, who resigned in November with more than a year left in his term. Tomblin has served as Senate president for 15 years. Sen. Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall, is now serving as acting Senate president in his place.

The state Supreme Court ruled in January that Tomblin had to issue a proclamation calling for a special gubernatorial election sometime this year.

According to the Court's opinion, West Virginia code states that no one can serve as acting governor for more than one year. The Court said a governor must be elected by Nov. 15.

In February, Tomblin signed House Bill 2853 into law, setting this year's special primary and gubernatorial election dates for May 14 and Oct. 4, respectively.

Late Friday, Tomblin issued a statement in response to the filing.

"The duties of the Office of Governor are immense, and require my attention on a full-time basis," he told the AP. "I believe that this lawsuit is nothing more than an attempt to derail the progress West Virginia is enjoying.

"I hope that the state Supreme Court of Appeals will quickly dispense with this legal matter so they can return to addressing the serious issues before the Court."

Gainer's office has said it will not comment on the lawsuit.

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