GLENVILLE – Despite having questionable educational qualifications, a candidate for magistrate in Gilmer County is on this May's primary election ballot.
Four candidates -- Carol Wolfe, Alton Skinner, Bill Stalnaker and Mickey Metz -- are seeking the Democratic nomination for one of the two seats for magistrate. Wolfe currently holds one of the seats, and the other is open following the announcement of incumbent Bill Mingh he would not be seeking re-election.
Of the four candidates, three -– Wolfe, Skinner and Stalnaker –- all have at least a high school diploma or GED, the minimum educational qualifications required by state law to run for magistrate. Additionally, Wolfe has a bachelor's degree from Glenville State College in social work, and a master's degree from Marshall University in counseling.
Metz, the incumbent sheriff who is constitutionally barred from seeking a third successive term, provided the Gilmer Clerk's Office a diploma he received on Nov. 23 from Adison High School. The diploma contains signatures of four people purporting to be AHS' president, superintendant, secretary of the school board and principal.
According to the Better Business Bureau, AHS is a diploma mill located in West Hollywood, Calif. It grants diplomas and GEDs to anyone who scores a 70 percent or better on its equivalency test and pays a fee of $369.
Because it failed to respond to 65 of 69 complaints lodged against it and does not possess any sort of competency license, the BBB of Los Angeles gave AHS an "F." Most of the complaints lodged against AHS allege its diplomas or GEDs "are not accredited, and are of little or no value to the student" and AHS "fails to disclose that the diploma is not recognized by higher learning institutions, and is not verifiable by potential employers."
The West Virginia Record attempted to get a comment from Clerk Jean Butcher as to why Metz was allowed to be on the ballot despite having questionable educational qualifications. When contacted, she declined a comment, and referred questions to Metz.
Among the reasons he chose to get a diploma from AHS rather than obtain a GED locally Metz said, was convenience. Because the hours he puts in as sheriff did not allow him the opportunity to devote to traditional classroom study, Metz said getting a diploma via AHS "was easier to do online."
Also, Metz said he was pleased AHS' diplomas are "internationally accredited." When asked who accredits AHS, Metz couldn't immediately recall.
On its Web site, AHS says it is accredited by the International Accreditation Committee of Online Schools. Though it maintains Web site that gives general information about itself, IACOOS does not disclose its location or the names of its staff members.
Also, a toll-free telephone number listed on IACOOS' Web site is not in service.
Nevertheless, Metz says he's confident the degree he received from AHS qualifies him to run for magistrate. Aside from that, both his field work and in-service training as sheriff during the last seven years makes him a qualified candidate.
"I've taken a lot of classes via the sheriff's department that are from places like WVU and Marshall that give you credit for the work you do," Metz said.
Metz, 48, a Glenville resident, will appear second on the ballot behind Wolfe, and ahead of Skinner and Stalnaker. The top two vote-getters will then face Republican Lori Rosenburg, a political newcomer, in November.
A native of Bartow, Fla., Rosenburg graduated in December with a bachelor's in behavioral science from GSC.