Emails show Honaker is not Inspector General, but who is?  

By Stephen Baldwin, RealWV

Three weeks ago, RealWV reported that Mike Honaker seemed to be constitutionally-ineligible to serve as Inspector General for the West Virginia Department of Homeland Security, a position he was appointed to by Governor Jim Justice. 

At the time, neither Honaker nor Justice returned requests for comment. During a Sept. 20 press conference, Justice was asked directly about the situation. He said he “wasn’t aware”, as it “hasn’t been brought to my attention.”

However, emails obtained by RealWV via Freedom of Information Act requests show that Honaker’s nomination was pulled by the governor’s office more than a week before the governor’s comment. 

Senate conveys concerns

On September 12 at 9:17am, the Senate’s Deputy Chief of Staff, Casey Long, emailed Missy Parsons, Boards & Commissions Administrator in the governor’s office, to convey concerns about Honaker’s eligibility for the office to which he’d been appointed. The Senate is constitutionally-charged with confirming or denying appointments made by the governor. 

Section 6-15 of the West Virginia Constitution says that no senator or delegate may be appointed to an office created during their time in elected office. The position to which Justice appointed Honaker was created this year with the passage of HB3360. Honaker voted in favor of the bill as a delegate. 

Long typed that entire section of the constitution in the body of the email and said, “Due to this, I believe he is ineligible,” the email said. 

Governor’s office replies

Three hours later on September 12, Parsons replied from the governor’s office, saying, “Please disregard the appointment letter. This will be addressed again at a later date.” 

When asked on September 19 whether he was aware of constitutional eligibility concerns over the Honaker appointment, Gov. Justice said, “It has not been brought to my attention yet and everything, but I’ll be more than glad to check it out,” Justice said. “From the standpoint of him technically being eligible and us legally doing the right thing in the hire, I’ll follow up on your question and check it out. But I have not heard anything in regard to that.”

A week before the press conference, the emails show that the governor’s own staff pulled Honaker’s nomination due to ineligibility. Justice claimed he was unaware. 

By the day after the press conference, the governor’s press secretary, C.J. Harvey, told reporter Mike Tony, “Mike Honaker was hired into an existing position within the Secretary of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General, rather than formally appointed to the statutorily created position as head of the Office of Inspector General.” 

RealWV reached out to Mike Honaker for comment, and he was unresponsive. 

RealWV also reached out to the Public Information Officer for the Department of Homeland Security, Andy Malinoski, for comment. He referred us to the governor’s office, saying only they could comment on the matter. 

RealWV reached out to the governor’s office asking what position Honaker currently holds and who is serving as Inspector General. They have not responded. 

Who is Inspector General?

It’s currently unclear what position Honaker holds in Homeland Security and who, if anyone, is serving as Inspector General. 

Emails show the governor’s office pulled his nomination as Inspector General, but when RealWV called the main number for Homeland Security and asked to speak with Mike Honaker, we were transferred to the Inspector General’s office. No one answered. 

The agency website does not include any information about Honaker or the Inspector General’s office. 

Honaker posted a picture on social media the evening of October 5, containing the program of the Greenbrier County GOP Dinner. It includes a message of congratulations to Honaker, saying, “We wish him (Honaker) well in his new adventure as Inspector General of West Virginia Department of Homeland Security.” 

Honaker thanked the Greenbrier County GOP Executive Committee for the message, and several people commented with congratulations on his new position. A position emails indicate he does not hold.

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.

Not everyone disclosed the emails in question

RealWV sent the same FOIA request to the House of Delegates, Senate, Governor’s office, and Department of Homeland Security seeking information about Honaker’s eligibility for the position. Only the Senate disclosed both emails about Honaker’s eligibility and pulled nomination. 

The governor’s office disclosed the email from Casey Long conveying concerns about his ineligibility, but they did not disclose the reply from Missy Parsons in their office confirming that his nomination was pulled. 

The House of Delegates disclosed the email from Missy Parsons. They also said additional documents were withheld, claiming an “internal memoranda” exemption.

The Department of Homeland Security responded to our request, but disclosed no communications relating to Honaker’s eligibility for the position. 

Under state law, failure to disclose public information in a timely manner is a misdemeanor that can carry a fine and jail time. In recent years, legislators have moved to make less information available via FOIA. 

This story was updated after additional information from the House of Delegates was received.

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