Senator Ed Gaunch, R-Kanawha, chairman of the Joint Committee on Flooding, and Senate Finance Chairman Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, today responded to comments made by Brian Abraham, General Counsel to Gov. Jim Justice regarding last Tuesday’s Joint Committee on Flooding meeting:
“Today, the Governor’s General Counsel stood before a room of reporters in Charleston and said that it was his understanding that I removed from the meeting’s agenda Question and Answer sessions with Mary Jo Thompson and Russell Tarry, two Department of Commerce officials who were directly involved in overseeing the RISE West Virginia Program,” Senator Gaunch said. “This is absolutely false. I am not sure from where Mr. Abraham got that understanding, but it certainly was not from me. Like the rest of the Committee and the public, I expected Ms. Thompson and Mr. Tarry to be present for the meeting to answer questions about this program. It’s insulting to me, and to the other members of the Committee, that the Governor’s Office would continue to be so loose with the truth as it relates to what went so terribly wrong with these flood recovery efforts. There are no points to be scored each time the executive shifts blame.”
Abraham also said during Monday’s press conference that Senator Blair brought up the “removed” agenda item anyway.
“I am outraged that the Governor’s attorney would answer a reporter’s question with something he knows to be 100 percent untrue,” Senator Blair said. “I did not know until the meeting that we would not hear from either Ms. Thompson or Mr. Tarry, and I certainly did not bring it up to ‘make a show out of it.’ To even suggest that what I did was for show, while the Governor’s own Department of Commerce is doing everything in its power to hide from any accountability whatsoever with the RISE West Virginia program, is both laughable and sad. The people of this state demand answers, and the executive branch cannot run from them forever. I personally will request that Mr. Abraham be called to testify – under oath, by subpoena if necessary – before the next meeting of the Joint Committee on Flooding. Perhaps that will prevent a ‘misunderstanding’ like this from ever happening again.”