Democrat Executive Committee meeting best entertainment value for the money

March 17, 2014

For entertainment value, it would be difficult to beat the Mingo County Democrat Executive Committee meeting held Friday at the courthouse in Williamson. There’s no film showing at the cinema with a better story line or more action.

Seldom have I seen a public figure show the disdain for the public and others that was shown by Democrat Executive Committee Chair Dick White. White was obnoxious in his attitude toward me, but that can be excused. I tend to bring that out in the best of them.

He and his brother, Delegate H.K. White, somehow apparently have determined that Dick White is not a public figure, despite being committee chair. Dick White also insisted that his attorney told him to record every conversation the two of us have. I was thrilled by that, believing White’s attorney may figure out what unsubstantiated comments his client makes.

One of those is his continued insistence that a “state Democrat Party official” told him he should have a committee meeting 10 days after the legal deadline for naming poll workers. Dick White kept telling me and everyone else at Friday’s meeting that “Larry Puccio wants to talk to you (me),” to inform me of the fallacies I have written.

There are those who will not agree with me, even among my best political and social friends, but I have always found Puccio honest, truthful and a first-class public servant. Although I know where those who criticize him get their belief that he should not be Democrat state party chair, I do not join them in that belief.

Puccio and I discussed Dick White’s story that a “state Democrat party official” had instructed him to call the March 14 meeting. Puccio denied ever having talked, emailed or communicated with White about the matter. State executive committee officials, including executive director Curt Zickefoose said they, likewise, had not been in contact with White about the matter.

I believe Puccio and the party officials are men and women of their word. I do not have any reason whatsoever to doubt that. And then I recall that it was Dick White who told me about the Gilbert Police Department “emptying their ticket books” writing citations for drivers who were on the roads during the alleged “code three” emergency on March 3. Then I realize nobody has yet appeared in court to either pay or fight such citations.

Back to my original point. I think Larry Puccio tells the truth; I’ll let astute readers decide if Dick White does.

At least Dick White keeps his public discussions on a professional level. He eventually told me Friday evening that “I can tell I’m upsetting you by the quiver in your voice and your lips even twitched a little bit.”

Five years ago, I was involved in a horrific traffic accident with my then 2-year-old grandson. He was uninjured but I was knocked unconcious and eventually hospitalized for 32 days. At the outset of that hospitalization, I suffered tremors throughout my body as a result of the mishap. One of the areas most affected was my lips. A merciful God has basically repaired all of the damage from that wreck. Still, once in awhile, my lips do “twitch.”

Thank you, Dick White, for reminding me of it.

… While thinking about the “code three” or “level three” or “Three Musketeer” or “Three Stooges” emergency Mingo County officials imagine they declared March 3, I had a second recent encounter with the folks who man the metal detectors at the courthouse entrance.

Once before, I told one of those at the checkpoint that he could not, constitutionally, ask me “where you going?” as I passed successfully through the metal detector. He disputed that and kept asking the same question. He told me “I don’t know who you are” and I offered him my driver’s license for identification. He was not interested. “Where you going?” he repeated.

That time, I finally told him I was headed for the county clerk’s office and might even stop in at the county commission. Friday evening before the Democrat meeting, I simply refused. Again, I told the officer he had no constitutional right to ask that question in a public building. And again, I offered to show my identification. He wasn’t interested, either.

Eventually, I noted that the patch on his uniform identified him as a “county marshal.” When a second uniformed officer walked up, his patch also said, “county marshal.”

I told both “marshals” that I had never, in my 44 years in and out of West Virginia government, ever heard of a West Virginia “county marshal.” Both seemed incredulous to hear that I was that ignorant. Well, I’ve got good company in that regard.

Since it was the weekend, I have been unable to contact the proper state officials regarding just what a “county marshal,” is but I suspect the answer will resemble the response to where in the West Virginia code it addresses a “level three” emergency. Nobody contacted, from prominent lawyers to sheriffs to county commissioners in other counties of the state, ever heard of a county marshal either. Well, most of them had heard of Marshal Dillon, but that’s likely another story.

These fellows, whose position may well not exist, appear for all the world to be all there is between anarchy and public safety at the Mingo County Courthouse. As they “guard” the front doors and inquire, “where you going?” it occurs to me that they may have no right to be manning the metal detectors, either.

Although I asked the one who inquired where I was headed to “ask the sheriff if you can do that,” he told me he had no intention of doing so. Finally, he and the other “marshal” noted that they work for “the judge, not the sheriff.”

Would that possibly be “the judge” as in disgraced Mingo Circuit Judge Michael Thornsbury? Did the state Supreme Court take Thornsbury’s law license and help force him to resign in light of his federal indictment but leave his “marshals” in charge of the courthouse front doors? Are these folks there to guarantee public safety or deter and harass those who are there on legitimate county business? Disrupting the peaceful flow of citizens into courthouse offices is not appropriate. I expect to find out just what “county marshals” are and what their powers and duties are in the next few days. Yes, I’ll report to you.

I did ask the pair if they are what are called “bailiffs” in other counties of the state and they appeared unfamiliar with that common term for a deputy sheriff who is assigned to circuit court. Still, I have never seen a bailiff deter the public at the front door of the courthouse or the door to a circuit courtroom. If a hearing is “closed,” a bailiff will tell those who try to enter that it is. But they do not inquire, “where you going?” at the front door of the building.

There are civilian employees in Monongalia County who seem to practice about like the Mingo “marshals,” but that does not make it right. As far as I know, those employees in Monongalia County do not wear guns and they aren’t designated “county marshals” on their uniforms. When my friend, Alicia McCoy and I walked into that Morgantown building, they did ask us where we were headed and if we had a “hearing in court.” They did not appear to have heard of the United States Constitution, either. Word travels slowly across the mountains.

… Lisa Kirk, secretary of the Mingo Democrat Executive Committee, kept insisting Friday that she would be “afraid to come in this courthouse with six people when there’s a code three emergency.” She said she was particularly “afraid” because of all the recent investigations and indictments for election and other corruption in the county. County Clerk “Big Jim” Hatfield quickly told her he unlocked the courthouse door on March 3 and “anybody was welcome to come right in.”

I find it somewhat amusing that Team Mingo members are now concerned about the appearance of impropriety and evidently have so much respect for the law that they would never defy a county commission declaration of a “code three emergency.” Never mind, of course, that the commission has no right to declare such an emergency, whatever it is, and Williamson attorney Della Cline-Gentile repeatedly told the committee that.

I’d be more concerned about calling a meeting to name poll workers 10 days past the deadline than whether or not we would all go to jail for sitting in an open courthouse at a duly-called executive committee meeting.

I have strange ideas about such things, evidently.

… I’m uncertain if, after admitting to the “quivering lips,” I have now confessed to readers all of my shortcomings. Perhaps there are other,s but John Calvin, Jesus and I have just not been predestined to tell you.

Wait a minute. I do sometimes inadvertently cross the yellow line right in the center of the highway. I don’t believe I told you that.

And I do have a weakness for sisters. Generally, if I think one is attractive, I believe the others are too.

I’m trying to think of everything. Really I am.

… The 2014 legislative session will be known for handing out pay raises, tax breaks and … borrowing from the “rainy day fund.”

If Republicans cannot capitalize on all of this, they never will.

Prediction? They never will.

And that’s really about all the space I have to continue summarizing the 2014 legislature. Hopefully, there will be more to come shortly.

… State Republicans organizing a “grassroots” campaign could be compared to an Italian chef preparing a Japanese dinner. First of all, GOP officials should figure out who can be trusted at the local level. Believe me, past experience tells me they don’t have a clue.

Never try to organize a conspiracy in West Virginia. Those involved will either forget which team they’re on or do exactly the opposite of what they agree to do. Republicans are about to learn that in November.

Wait and see …

… Despite the entertainment value of Mingo County Democrats, it is always worth the trip to Williamson to see the good folks of Mingo County and partake of some great “home cooking.” “Big Jim” Hatfield, the premier bologna-sandwich maker, and I traveled to Food City in South Williamson, Ky., after the meeting for some of the best beans and cornbread to be found in this world. It was a wonderful meal and great conversation with those who visited with us from Mingo.

… And yes, I have now seen the text message I referred to that Logan Assessor Rick Grimmett received regarding the public information officer in the county school system. Two messages, last Aug. 15, came from cell phone number 304-688-3801 issued to the Logan school board. They appear to say Erica O’Briant had lined up enough votes to get the job no matter what the superintendent recommended. They also suggested a different position might be available for Grimmett’s relative.

… Contact me with your comments, story ideas and rumors. By email or on the phone. You won’t be forced to see my lips quiver. Call my cell at 304-533-5185.