CHARLESTON – West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey has issued an opinion regarding a formal request from the Jefferson County Prosecutor’s Office.
Morrisey also issued a statement regarding the opinion and the formal request.
“While we believe the president of a planning commission meets the definition of being a public official, we do not believe the successful defeat of an ethics complaint meets the requirement for such a reimbursement based upon an examination of statutes and case law,” he said.
In his March 22 letter, Morrisey said the opinion relies on facts and is based solely upon the factual assertions set forth in Prosecuting Attorney Ralph A. Lorenzetti Jr.’s letter to the attorney general earlier this month.
“In your letter, you address the possible reimbursement of the president of the Jefferson County Planning Commission under West Virginia Code…for legal expenses incurred in responding to an ethics complaint,” the letter states.
In August 2014, a citizen of Jefferson County filed an ethics complaint with the West Virginia Ethics Commission against the president of the planning commission and the WVEC dismissed the case.
The president of the ethic commission is now seeking to have the Jefferson County Commission reimburse legal expenses he incurred successfully defending against the ethics complaint.
The AG’s office stated that it concluded that the president of the planning commission is an official of that governmental entity and that the office believes that the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals would conclude that a governing body is required to apply to any reimbursement decision under West Virginia Code a three-party test the court adopted.
“Finally, we do not believe that an ethics complaint filed with the West Virginia Ethics Commission constitutes ‘an action seeking the recovery of moneys alleged to have been wrongfully expended’ under West Virginia Code…” the letter states.
The Jefferson County Prosecutor’s Office sent the AG’s Office a letter on March 10, requesting his opinion.