Gregory hits a nerve in the state Capitol

By Kyle Lovern

September 10, 2013

I’ve been thrown out of better places than the State Senate Minority Leader’s office - but not lately.

Actually, I was not given the old heave-ho by Minority Leader Mike Hall but some of his egotistical colleagues apparently wanted me to be booted out. Apparently they feared I would overhear some “confidential” discussions and tell you, the taxpayers who employ them, about it.
First of all, the Senate Minority Leader’s Office, like all other Senate and House offices, is a public facility. As such, I would argue that I have as much right to be in the office as these power-crazed senators. It really doesn’t make voters feel better to learn that their state senators have “secrets” to hide from the public at the capitol. And, I might point out, it’s not exactly like great decisions of huge magnitude will be made by a State Senate group that, with the addition of Evan Jenkins’ switch from Democrat to Republican, numbers ten. Republicans always cry about “back-room deals” made by Democrats; what kind of deals are they trying to cut if they feel a need to hide from the press and public to do it?
In point of fact, the combined “power” of Senate Republicans equals exactly the power of your Old Aunt Myrtle who lives up Dog Fork. With Democrats in the majority, there is little Republicans have EVER done to exert much influence. Well, one of them might get a better office space if he or she kisses up to Senate President Jeff Kessler. That is especially so if he or she provides the deciding vote to make Kessler President.
Be that as it may, I have never taken advantage of “secrets” discussed in a public office. Usually, when two Republican senators converge on the Minority Leader’s Office to actually discuss something pertaining to GOVERNMENT, I walk to another part of the capitol. I will admit, when they wish to sit and dreamily discuss their wives back home while eyeballing the intern in the tight dress, I sometimes hang around. I don’t see where that does any damage to the affairs of state (I’ll leave it to you to decide what “affairs” it might affect), frankly.
The fact that I am sometimes present in the office set off a firestorm in a recent “secret” caucus. Let me point out that I was not even in the building when the meeting was held. Some asinine senators expressed grave concern that someone might see me there too much and their opinions would be assumed to be the same as mine. As if, as they say, anyone gives a royal rat’s butt what their opinions are. I’m paid for mine. I also have heard no complaints from Governor Earl Ray Tomblin or anyone else when I’m sitting in his office. I guess he isn’t scared of secrets being revealed.
Republicans were also concerned that my recent column explaining the Moore-Manchin relationship would tick off Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito and, again, THEY would be blamed for what I said. I suggest any of them give Capito a call on her cell phone (I can give them the number) to see how upset she is. Incredible.

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Since I cannot know what goes on inside “secret” meetings, I will turn quickly to the latest gossip from the GOP side. (See fellas, I didn’t report much of this until you got concerned about my presence). Rumors are spreading that State Senator Bill Cole has plans on a Republican majority in the Senate in 2015. Cole supposedly sees this as his first step toward the Governor’s Mansion. After all of eight months in office, Cole has decided he is more than suitable to be the Senate President under GOP control and then he’ll use that as a launching pad to be Governor.
All of which would seem ludicrous, if politicians were not involved. I have always said that ten people saying the same message can convince a politician to do ANYTHING but it takes 10,000 to convince him or her NOT to do something. That is particularly true if the ten are urging a politician to run for some higher political office.
So, Cole figures to unseat Hall as the Republican leader once the GOP has the majority. How on earth he figures to reach that majority is difficult to discern. The theory I’ve heard espoused, supposedly from Cole, is that three or four current Democrats will switch to the Republican side while the GOP unseats four or five Dems. Dream on, Alice … or Bill.
Then, the dynamic and imposing leadership of Cole will apparently cause a minor revolution as voters flock to the polls to elect him Governor in 2016. I suspect the need for guns will again be apparent, as voters battle each other to get into voting booths to cast ballots first for Cole.
There is even an aside to this theory that includes current Delegate Troy Andes running to unseat Hall so the Presbyterian minister-legislator is completely out of the way for the Cole coronation.
Hmmmn. Daydreaming. Yep, I can catch state Republican Senators daydreaming about the body of the gal in the tight dress AND controlling the upper body of the legislature — all at the same time.
For any of the bobblehead-doll senators, I might note that it is usually a bit better to deal with the press with honey rather than vinegar. I really didn’t care for the shot of vinegar, guys.
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Well, goodness. Do we fill the remainder of space with Mingo County or what? Perhaps that would be the best choice at this point.
Numerous citizens have demanded that Prosecutor Michael Sparks resign. Mike Baisen, a local businessman, suggested that Sparks resign “temporarily” until an investigation into his conduct is completed by the State Bar Office of Disciplinary Council. I’m sorry to have to inform the businessman, but one cannot have a “temporary” resignation in government. If Sparks resigns, he is out for good unless he can get voted back in during a subsequent election. That, then, is not an option.

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I also find it astounding that the Supreme Court of Appeals has the audacity to rule against the very foundation of America’s judicial system and suspend Circuit Judge Michael Thornsbury without pay. What in the name of Justice happened to the concept that one is innocent until proven guilty? Thornsbury has been accused of crimes by the United States Attorney, but he pleaded not guilty. He has the right to defend himself in an open trial. Does removing him without a conviction not mean the Supremes believe one is guilty until proven innocent? What a shame.

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If justices are really concerned about protecting the image of attorneys, judges, etc. they should perhaps take a better look at the ongoing conduct of quite a few around the state and area.
I receive literally dozens of “tips” each week and often court officials, judges and lawyers are mentioned. I don’t for a second believe all the stories and refrain from even looking into most.
Still, I think a bit of checking by the real powers-that-be might be rewarding.
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What’s the deal with finalizing estates in Mingo, anyway? Several people have complained to me that probate of loved ones’ wills and final settlements of estates are being held up due to lack of quorums by the Commission.

At the heart of the matter is the fact that Commissioner Greg “Hootie” Smith has traditionally abstained from voting on estate settlements because his law firm handles wills, etc. for clients. Smith told me “out of an abundance of caution” he decided to refrain from voting on any estate matter for years, whether his firm actually represented someone in the applicable case or not.

Since Commissioner David Baisden was indicted, he has not attended a commission meeting. That despite the fact that he is under no court order not to and continues to hold his office and receive his pay (unlike Thornsbury). That leaves only one voting commissioner, which the commission apparently believes means there is no quorum present. A quorum requires the presence of at least two commissioners.
Smith said he had changed his policy, in light of circumstances, and voted on estates at last week’s commission meeting when he was sure his firm had not been involved. Still, some settlements were not approved because Smith’s law firm had been involved.
There are a couple of questions here. For one, where is Baisden? He pleaded not guilty to the charges against him; he says he has no intention of resigning and he is still being paid. So, why is he not doing the job the people elected him to do, especially if he is not guilty of the allegations?
And, it would seem to me that the Commission attorneys should do a bit more research as to what constitutes a quorum. Although I assume one commissioner cannot make a motion AND second it, I truly believe the presence of Smith and John Mark Hubbard means a quorum IS present. So, I don’t think the right “excuse” is to say there is a quorum lacking.

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Nevertheless, the point is clear: if Baisden is still a County Commissioner and intends to draw his pay and not resign, why is he not doing his duty by attending Commission meetings? Two meetings ago he was being arraigned in Federal court, so that one makes sense. But where was he last week? Citizens have an absolute right to expect their elected representatives to do their jobs.

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Last, I guess, are all the floating theories about a house fire in Kentucky connected to the indicted Judge Thornsbury. Some insist it was accidental; others say Thornsbury wanted it torched because negative information about him was housed there; and still others think he is so hated in the community that someone decided to destroy the home.
Your guess is as good as mine on that one.

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As always, contact me with your rumors, comments or story ideas. Use the listed email address or call 304-533-5185.