Governor’s appointments run into constitutional road blocks 

By Stephen Baldwin, RealWV, with contributions from Matthew Young 

Two recent appointments by Governor Jim Justice ran into road blocks late last week. 

Mike Honaker appears to be constitutionally-ineligible for the new job – Inspector General of the W.Va. Department of Homeland Security – to which he was appointed. His replacement in the legislature, Delegate Jeff Campbell, also seems to be constitutionally-ineligible to serve simultaneously as a Delegate and a member of the commission which recommends legislator pay. 

Inspector General of the W.Va. Dept. of Homeland Security

In August, Governor Jim Justice appointed then-Delegate Mike Honaker, R-Greenbrier, to serve in the newly-created role of Inspector General, a position which was established during the last regular legislative session earlier in the year. Honaker resigned his seat in the House of Delegates to accept the newly-created position. 

Section 6-15 of the West Virginia Constitution says that no legislator may be appointed to a paying job created during their time in office, making Honaker ineligible to serve as Inspector General.  

“The Senate evaluates all executive nominations it receives based on constitutional and statutory qualifications, and proceeds from there with determining eligibility,” W.Va. Senate Communications Director Jacque Bland told RealWV regarding Honaker’s appointment. 

The position to which Justice appointed Honaker was created with the passage of HB3360. Honaker voted in favor of the bill as a delegate. 

When asked on September 1 by WV Public Broadcasting whether he voted for HB3360 knowing he would get the position, he said, “Absolutely not. It was never discussed, and never occurred to me.”

But the constitution takes it a step further, barring an elected official from serving in a role he or she helped create. 

HB3360 further requires that any appointment by the governor must be confirmed by the Senate, which has yet to occur and may not occur at all due to the constitutional requirement. 

The Office of Inspector General will be responsible for conducting internal investigations over departments run by other appointees of Governor Justice. The office will oversee internal investigations of the WV State Police, Division of Corrections, Emergency Management, Fire Marshall’s Office, Parole Board, and more. Several of those agencies are already currently involved in federal, state, and civil litigation.

It’s unclear who will fill the position or what comes next for Honaker, as requests for comment to Honaker and Gov. Justice were not returned. 

Legislative Compensation Commission

In a related matter, Justice appointed Jeff Campbell to serve as Honaker’s replacement in the House of Delegates. A public records search shows that Justice also appointed Campbell to the relatively-obscure Citizens Legislative Compensation Commission in February 2022. 

The commission exists solely to consider whether legislators should receive pay raises. Campbell began serving on the commission in 2022. According to the W.Va. Secretary of State’s office, he still sits on the commission. 

Article 6-33 forbids members of the legislature from serving on the commission: “Members of the Legislature and officers and employees of the state or of any county, municipality or other governmental unit of the state shall not be eligible for appointment to or to serve as members of the commission.”

Mike Hall, a former  State Senator and former Chief of Staff to Gov. Justice, chairs the commission and is joined by seven additional members–Larry Mathis, TJ Meadows, Linda Fluharty, Wally Thornhill, John Karras, Dave Sypolt, and Campbell.  All members except Karras were appointed by Justice. (Karras began serving on the commission in 1997 and has served continuously since.) 

On January 23, 2023, the commission voted to recommend a near 50% pay raise for legislators, from a base salary of $20,000 to a base salary of $28,000. No detailed agenda or minutes are publicly available showing which members were present or how each member voted. 

Campbell did post a picture of the Capitol on his Facebook page on January 23, 2023, the same day the commission met to recommend a pay raise. 

He said, “Nice to be back at the state Capitol today. Ran into several old friends and had a great afternoon there. Thank you, Governor Jim Justice!” 

A letter signed by Chair Mike Hall on the same day affirmed that “at least five of the seven members of the Commission…concurred” with the recommended pay raises. In addition to a base salary raise, the commission recommended raising interim and special session pay from $150/day to $250/day. 

Based on that recommendation from the Legislative Compensation commission, the legislature voted in March 2023 to grant pay raises to the legislature and all constitutional officers of the state beginning in 2025. 

Legislators will receive a 25% pay raise, while constitutional officers, including the governor, will receive a 20% raise. If Campbell is elected to the seat he’s been appointed to in 2024, he would receive that pay raise recommended by the commission on which he served.  

Reached via text, Campbell declined to comment. 

RealWV intended to ask Campbell how many meetings he’d attended, how he voted on the pay raise in 2023, and whether he intends to remain on the commission while serving as a delegate.

An Ethics Commission advisory opinion from 2012 indicates that a conflict of interest may be resolved by a legislator resigning from the commission which causes a conflict of interest with their legislative service. 

A request for comment to the governor’s office about Campbell’s dual appointments was not returned.  

‘I question it’

Delegate Todd Longanacre, R-Greenbrier, served with Honaker in the legislature. He will now serve with Campbell, both representing parts of the same county. Longanacre believes the governor’s office rushed the appointment process to put Campbell in office.

 “I think the appointment of Jeff Campbell is questionable,” Longanacre told RealWV on Sunday. “I’m not sure it was done under the letter of the law.”

Asked specifically about Campbell’s position on the Legislation Compensation commission, Longanacre said, “If he was on that commission, deciding how much we get paid and how much we don’t get paid, and now suddenly the governor is bypassing the traditional process by which an appointment needs to be made, I don’t care if he (Campbell) was at 200 meetings or at one meeting – I question it.” 

Stay tuned to RealWV for updates on these developing situations.

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