Gross incompetence is a good reason to fire an employee, or not to hire an applicant in the first place. If an employee can’t do the job the person was hired to do, that person needs to make way for someone who can. If an applicant can’t demonstrate the necessary skills, that person probably is not the right person for the job.

But what about “gross competence”? Is there such a thing? Can a person be too good at what he or she is supposed to be good at? What kind of crazy boss sacks an employee who’s exceptionally good at his or her job, or refuses to hire someone highly qualified?

You might be surprised how, too often, “gross competence” is viewed as a negative, particularly in dysfunctional organizations populated with incompetent (or corrupt) managers. Having a subordinate more capable than them is often the last thing bad managers want.

West Virginia, unfortunately, has too many of those dysfunctional government organizations. For decades, some of our public offices have been occupied by questionably qualified people unlikely to hire anyone who could introduce better practices and better ethics.

A clique of our business-as-usual state legislators is now trying to punish state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey for hiring an exceptionally qualified person to serve as solicitor general.

Elbert Lin, a Yale Law grad who clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and worked as a trial attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice before entering private practice, accepted the position at one third of his previous salary. He expects to be licensed to practice law in West Virginia before year’s end.

Delegate Doug Reynolds and 10 co-sponsors introduced House Bill 2788 earlier this month mandating that attorneys hired by the state at Lin’s level of compensation must have a license to practice law in West Virginia at the time of hire.

Cute little piece of nasty, backroom boys legislation, isn’t it?

Yes it is and what it really reflects is the backward, buffoonish image that has plagued our state for too long. That image can change if folks like Mr. Lin get a chance to go to work.

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