Farmer to lead casino fight
by Troy Graham
John Farmer, who left his post as Clarksburg city
attorney last month in a cloud of controversy, is now leading a media and
fund-raising campaign to fight legalized gambling at the Greenbrier Hotel.
Farmer left his job as city attorney in early February,
while he was under investigation by the state Lawyer Disciplinary Board.
Farmer admitted to violating three rules of conduct
for attorneys and the state Supreme Court annulled his license to
practice law on March 17.
Farmer started working for Queen, Hunter, Park and
Associates in the first week of March. The firm handles lobbying and media
relations for a variety of groups. Id like to stay with this kind of
work, Farmer said. You got to go on.
Farmer is working full-time on the Greenbrier issue,
said Mike Queen, a senior partner at the firm. He cant do any legal work,
but the legal eye helps us tremendously, Queen said.
The Legislature passed a bill this year that will
allow Greenbrier County voters to decide if casino gambling should be allowed
at the venerable White Sulpur Springs resort.
Conservative family and church groups are trying
to convince voters to defeat the referendum. They fear the endemic dangers
of gambling and doubt the economic benefits of gambling lauded by hotel
officials and Charleston lobbyists.
The referendum vote promises
to be a contentious issue that will attract statewide media coverage. If
the voters approve the referendum, the casino will be the first in the
Many of the groups, such as the Council of Churches,
are the same ones Queen has worked with in his fight to regulate or ban
nude dancing. Most of Farmers work in the beginning will involve fund
raising, he said. The Greenbrier pretty much has unlimited funds to work
on the issue," he said.
Farmer also wants to keep the referendum vote from
being held in a special election. He believes more opposition votes will
be cast in a primary or general election.
Farmer said he wanted to do this kind of work because
it enables him to work closely with people on discussing complicated issues.
The more I got into it the more feelings I have toward it," he said.
Farmer said he hasnt investigated the possibility
of practicing law again, perhaps in another state.
2 Harrison men plead guilty in farm loan case
A credit manager for a federal farm relief agency
accused of falsifying loan applications and borrower account records for
at least five people and a Lost Creek man accused of getting one of the
loans are awaiting sentencing dates after entering guilty pleas in federal
court earlier this month.
Paul Allan Weese, 46, of Lost Creek, the Agriculture
Credit Manager for the federal Farm Service Agency, was named in a nine-count
indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Martinsburg in January.
Weese pleaded guilty to one count of the indictment
for making a series of loans to people not eligible for them. Weese allegedly
agreed to submit false statements on the applications filed between 1995
and 1997. Weese allegedly approved loan applications totaling about $865,000
to five people over a two year period.
If convicted, Weese faces five years in prison and
a fine of up to $250,000. He is free on bond pending a sentencing date,
which has not been set.
Bradley A. Rose, 46, of Lost Creek, was named in
one count of the indictment returned in January. Rose allegedly applied
for, and received, a farm operating loan of $100,000 through the Harrison
County Bank. Rose allegedly said the loan was to purchase cows and generate
farm income, but instead used the money to refinance his home.
He faces a maximum of 30 years in prison and a fine
of up to $1 million. Rose is free on bond pending his sentencing.
Low salaries still a problem, state teachers say;
More money needed to retain well-educated
by Gail Marsh
This year the Legislature helped teachers by granting
them a pay raise and greater representation, giving them more protection
while outside the classroom and setting aside funds to pay for national
Teachers received a $756 pay raise again this year,
an amount that fails to keep state teacher salaries competitive, according
to Norma Taylor, librarian at South Harrison High School and local president
of the West Virginia Education Association.
We appreciate what they gave us, but we continue
to decline in state rankings in teacher pay. Its pretty sad when students
are able to leave school for technical careers and make as much money starting
out as teachers who have worked for 30 years, Taylor said.
Judy Hale, president of the West Virginia Federation
of Teachers AFL-CIO, said low salaries may cause problems in the future
with teacher recruitment.
A national teacher shortage is causing other states
to offer bonuses and other incentives to lure teachers from our state.
They like our teachers because we have a good work ethic, and it may be
hard to retain good teachers with our lower pay scale, Hale said.
Along with the pay raise, teachers received the
right to have union officials participate in discussions about the Public
Employees Insurance Agency. Though school employee insurance premiums were
not increased this year, deductibles and co-payments will go up July 1.
The Legislature also voted to give teachers $1,000
each toward the cost of taking the National Board for Professional Teaching
Standards test, and another $1,000 to each teacher who passes the test.
The bill provides a $1,000 per year bonus for each year a teacher holds
the 10-year certification.
Clarksburg Water Board to take guess work out of billing
by Troy Graham
The Clarksburg Water Board is taking the guess work
out of its customers bills by eliminating the unpopular practice of estimating
Starting April 13, the water board will read all
9,000 water meters in its service area every month. The utility previously
estimated water bills every other month. Bills were adjusted if the estimates
were higher or lower than they should be when the meters were read the
Estimating bills, a practice used by most utilities,
is highly disliked by consumers, said water board General Manager Patsy
Trecost. When they estimate your gas bill and it looks high, doesnt that
blow your mind, he said.
The amount of calls from customers inquiring about
their bills is considerably higher in the months when bills are estimated,
About 40 percent of the calls taken in a month when
bills are estimated are from perplexed customers, as compared to 10 percent
of the calls in months when the meters are read, he said.
The water board is able to begin reading all of
its meters every month because it stopped managing the Lost Creek-Mount
Clare Public Service District last summer. An employee placed in Lost Creek
full-time will now become the water boards third meter reader, Trecost
said. The opportunitys here and were going to take advantage of it,
he said. Now is the opportune time.
The water board has been
planning this move since it stopped managing Lost Creek last August. But
new maps had to be drawn and changes had to be made to billing and computer
programs before implementation, Trecost said.
The changes will also help the water board to identify and correct
service problems quicker, Trecost added.
Some customers will see changes in their billing and due dates, he
said. Any customers who have questions can contact the water board, he
We feel this change will make the customers happy,
and that is our main goal, Trecost said.
want charges dropped
by James Fisher
Attorneys for three parents accused of setting a
deadly 1997 blaze in Weston are asking a judge to dismiss the arson resulting
in death charges because they say federal prosecutors do not have the jurisdiction.
Under federal law, arson resulting in death can result in the death penalty.
Attorneys say there are several criteria prosecutors
must meet for the charge. According to court records, defense attorneys
say prosecutors must show that the defendants maliciously damaged or destroyed
the property by fire or explosive.
Additionally, the building must have been used in interstate or foreign
commerce or affect interstate or foreign commerce. Defense attorneys contend
the house in Weston was not connected with commerce and therefore the federal
charges should not have been filed.
Defense attorneys also are asking federal Magistrate
David Core to move the highly publicized trial away from the Clarksburg
area because of prejudicial media coverage. Attorneys are also asking for
the three to be tried separately.
Ricky Brown, Barbara Brown and Janette Ables are accused of setting
fire to a house in Weston in November 1997 to cash in on insurance money
on the residence and the five children who died.
Killed were Barbara Browns three children, Seronica
Castner, 10, Kimberly Castner, 9, and Brandon Castner, 8, as well as Ables
two children, Nicole Ables, 6, and Jimmy Ables, 3. Ricky Brown was stepfather
of the Castner children.
No date has been set for a hearing before Core to consider those and
other motions filed by defense attorneys earlier this month in federal
court. Prosecutors have until April 16 to file responses to the motions.
Barbara Browns attorneys are asking for the trial
to be moved to either Wheeling or Martinsburg.
According to court records, her attorney lists several
reasons the trial should be moved to Wheeling, including the proximity
of the defendants and their attorneys, the lack of media coverage in the
Northern Panhandle and other Clarksburg cases moved to Wheeling, including
the Mountaineer Militia case.
All three are currently being held at the Northern
Regional Jail and Correctional Facility in Moundsville.
Ricky Browns motion asks the trial be moved outside the present media
market. The motion also asks that if the trial is moved to another state,
it should be moved to a state without a death penalty.
Janette Ables motion also asks that the trial be
moved from Clarksburg because of the amount of media coverage.
All three motions contained lists and clippings from various local
As an alternative, the motions to change venue all
ask that if the case is not moved, a jury from outside the Clarksburg area
should be brought in to hear the case.
The federal trial for Ricky and Barbara Brown and
Janette Ables is scheduled to begin in September in Clarksburg before District
Judge Irene Keeley.