Tuesday, March 01, 2011
EKB Capsule News...West Virginia...3-2-'11
- President Barack Obama issued an order in a proclamation Monday requiring all flags in the country to be lowered in honor of the Frank Buckles, the last surviving American veteran of World War I, who died Sunday. President Obama stated that as respect for the memory of Army Corporal Frank W. Buckles, and in remembrance of the generation of American veterans of World War I that, on the day of Buckles' interment, the flag of the United States shall be flown at half-staff at the White House and upon all public buildings and grounds, at all military posts and naval stations, and on all naval vessels of the Federal Government in the District of Columbia and throughout the United States and its Territories and possessions until sunset on such day. Obama further directs that the flag shall be flown at half-staff for the same period at all United States embassies, legations, consular offices, and other facilities abroad, including all military facilities and naval vessels and stations.
- The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has approved a permit for Consol Energy's Spring Branch No. 3 Mine in Mingo County after the company agreed to greatly reduce its potential environmental impacts. Consol reduced the surface footprint of the deep mine operation from 57 to 19 acres and cut its burial of streams from 3,600 to 870 linear feet, while still proposing to mine 2.77 million tons of coal. The original mine proposed to produce 2.85 million tons of coal.
- Nineteen year old Larry Fields of Ripley died at Charleston Area Medical Center after being shot in the head with a pellet rifle fired by 18 year old Jared Devin Wade Anthony, also of Ripley. The shooting happened just before 3:00 A.M. Sunday at a party at a home in Evans. Troopers believe drugs and alcohol played a role in the incident.
- The body found along a road in Chattanooga, Tennessee on Saturday has been positively identified as 84 year old Richard Russell of of Bellefontaine, Ohio. He had suffered at least one stab wound. Samuel K. Littleton II, who was arrested in Princeton, West Virginia, where officials found a car belonging to Russell and his missing 85 year old wife, Gladis, had told police he dumped their bodies in Georgia while on his way to Florida. The search for Gladis Russell continues.
- Julie Fato, a woman accusing former State Police trooper Derek Snavely of forcing her to have sex with him testified Tuesday that she was shocked when the trooper followed her home after pulling her over early on the morning of November 16, 2008 while she was driving from the Vault, a now-defunct Charleston bar, to Dwight's restaurant in St. Albans. She testified Snavely pulled her over in the parking lot of Smiley's restaurant in Jefferson and then told her to go to two locations where they engaged in sexual acts. Fato says she didn't realize Snavely followed her home until he followed her into the house and up the stairs. Snavely earlier testified he believed he was an invited guest when he entered the house where Fato was staying.
- The state Bar's Office of Disciplinary Counsel has announced that the West Virginia state Supreme Court has suspended attorney Rodney S. Justice, of Ashland, Kentucky, for 30 days as part of a reciprocal agreement with Kentucky. Justice will not be eligible for reinstatement until he can prove he is in good standing in Kentucky following ethical misconduct. It does not indicate what Justice did in Kentucky to earn his suspension there.
- Robert Norris Jr., 60, of North Carolina, pleaded guilty Monday to bigamy, admitting he married Putnam County native Christina Brown while he was still being married to another woman since 1987. A grand jury indicted Norris on bigamy charges in July. Brown said she had no idea Norris was still legally married when she married him. As part of the plea, prosecutors agreed to recommend probation for Norris. Bigamy, a felony charge, usually brings a one to five year prison sentence.
- Monday night, the Huntington City Council approved a resolution for some tax incentives that will turn the old Ames Department Store along 5th Street Road into a new call center for DIRECTV. Neighborgall Construction will be the first company to take advantage of a reduction in its tax on refurbishing an existing business. Council members also gave the go ahead on a project to build 44 new high-end condos in the Highlawn neighborhood. The condos, along with a pool and fitness center, will cater to med students and young professionals. The developer will break ground Friday.
- Carol Graham, the wife of Bob Graham, the former executive director of the Wyoming County Council on Aging, lost her case against the group Monday when a Wyoming County jury ruled in favor of the council. In 2006, Bob Graham was convicted of one count of illegally cashing in more than $31,000 in sick leave without approval by the group's board of directors. He spent 13 months in prison, but was released after the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the conviction, ruling there was insufficient evidence to convict him. After being released from prison, Graham sought a certificate of innocence, which would have entitled him to restitution for unjust conviction and imprisonment. Last month, the United States Supreme Court denied that request, and Carol Graham and their son filed employment cases against the council. The jury ruled against Carol Graham's case and a judge dismissed his son's suit. The court also ruled Graham will never be permitted to work at the council again.
- A bill creating an intermediate court of appeals passed in the Senate Finance Committee Monday afternoon. The proposal is supported by the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce which says the current set-up of the state Supreme Court hurts the state's business climate, an idea trial lawyers don't agree with. West Virginia Association of Justice President Michael Romano urged the committee to reject the bill, saying no one really knows how much an intermediate court would cost the state, and senators needed to give the Supreme Court's new appellate rules, which just began in January, time to work. Romano said the Chamber needs to stop casting a negative light on the state. Chamber of Commerce Vice President Brenda Nichols Harper says there are intermediate courts in 40 others states and there is currently discretionary jurisdiction in West Virginia when it comes to appeals, and the Court doesn't have to take it. A committee appointed by former Governor Joe Manchin to study the court system last year recommended an intermediate court, but the Supreme Court countered by changing its rules.
- There were plenty of questions Monday evening when Charleston City Council members got their first detailed look at the proposed 2011-12 city budget, including no across-the board pay raises and the elimination of 18 already vacant jobs in the fire and police departments. Committee Finance Director Joe Estep told Council members the business and occupation tax is the single largest source of revenue for the city, providing about half of the city's total budget of almost $82 million for the fiscal year that starts July 1st, and while, so far this year, tax revenues are up 6.4 percent over the previous year, and, from October through February, they're up 9.9 percent. But, the results are not consistent. Estep predicts tax revenues will rise 3.5 percent next year to $40.8 million. City Manager David Molgaard said rising pension costs will more than eat up that increase. The city will pay $340,000 more to the Public Employees Retirement System for non-uniformed workers and $645,000 more to its underfunded police and fire pension funds. Molgaard says help could be coming if the Legislature passes a city pension bill this year, but that would require an additional $1.7 million in funding from the city next year.
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