CHARLESTON – Senate President Bill Cole, R-Mercer, and Speaker of the House Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha, today issued a subpoena to WorkForce West Virginia Acting Executive Director Russell Fry, along with a letter expressing their disappointment that the agency has failed to fully comply with a recent request for documents related to the development of the new prevailing wage methodology as required by Senate Bill 361, which became law in April.
Specifically, WorkForce West Virginia failed to turn over to the Joint Committee on Government and Finance more than 50 emails and other important documents, including specific documents that show efforts from outside interests to influence the development of the prevailing wage rate methodology.
The Joint Committee passed a motion June 10 that called for “access to any and all documents or communications of every agency or department of the state involved in the investigation and preparation of the methodology presented today by WorkForce West Virginia for determination of the prevailing hourly rate of wages.”
“It’s incredibly troubling to me that this agency has chosen to be less than forthright in fulfilling our legal request for information, and because of this action, I have grave concerns about the objectivity and legitimacy of their work,” Senate President Cole said.
In two separate responses to legislative requests dated June 17 and June 18, WorkForce West Virginia said no documents had been destroyed or were being withheld for privilege, and that the agency “… has not received either written or electronic communications from private entities seeking to influence the development of the prevailing wage rate methodology.”
However, documents obtained by the Joint Committee from other sources show numerous email communications between a representative of the Affiliated Construction Trades Foundation and Jeff Green, the director of WorkForce West Virginia’s research division, that criticize the use of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data to calculate the prevailing wage rate, as required by state law. Based on the documents that were actually supplied by WorkForce West Virginia, it appears that at least one of these documents provided by outside labor interests was relied upon in the development of the new prevailing wage methodology.
“The Legislature, in good faith, listened to the various citizens and groups who had expressed their views on how prevailing wage should be calculated and passed bipartisan legislation based on those discussions,” Speaker Armstead said. “Unfortunately, it now appears WorkForce West Virginia has decided to ignore the Legislature’s clear directive and to instead impose a new survey which was not contemplated by the Legislature. It is important that we know why this course was followed and that we have access to all of the information considered by WorkForce West Virginia in developing what we believe to be a flawed process.”
WorkForce West Virginia must respond to the subpoena by 5 p.m. on Friday, July 10, 2015.