MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Monongalia County’s commissioners are not happy about how they were characterized in Gov. Justice’s COVID-19 briefing on Wednesday.
When talking about bar closures due to a COVID-19 spike in the county, which has been ongoing for a month, Gov. Justice said he had decided to extend the order for another seven days, at the request of West Virginia University.
The governor said the Monongalia County Commission had not been offering specific, “inside baseball,” input on what should be done with the closure order.
“We’ve got to have our local leaders be willing to make recommendations,” Justice said.
However, Tom Bloom, a county commissioner, said the governor’s assertion was misleading and they had just spoken to his office at 11:30 the same morning, offering their suggestions. Bloom said Commission President Ed Hawkins told Bray Cary, the governor’s senior advisor, that they wanted to see the bar open with strict and specific guidelines.
“It was very disturbing to hear the governor make misleading statements concerning the situation in Monongalia County and the bar closures,” Bloom said. “And what’s even more disturbing is when you start to question the leadership of Mon County, which is the number one economic engine of the state. Our concern is that we need to work together and for whatever reason, the governor has chosen not to work with us.”
One of the most bothersome parts of Gov. Justice’s statement and decision to extend the closure was that they only listened to WVU, Bloom said. While WVU is integral to the county and the county commission has a great working relationship with them, they do not represent the county, the commissioner said.
“Were elected and make decisions, this has to be said,” Bloom said.
Bloom said the commission has had its fair share of agreements and disagreements with the governor, but his statement on Wednesday was, “shocking.” He said it is unfair to their commission and that they had been getting bombarded with phone calls and messages after the press conference asking why they hadn’t responded, as the governor had suggested.
The commissioner said he doesn’t know if it is an ideological battle that the governor is waging, seeing as Mon County is progressive and he, the governor, is a republican. Or if this has to do with it being an election year, but whatever his reason might be it is unmerited.
“People in this county know that the three county commissioners do not back down,” Bloom said. “In fact, we are the first one to solve problems, so to make it sound as if we were running and hiding is just ludicrous.”
At the end of the day, Bloom said he and his fellow commissioners are looking to rectify the situation with the governor and to find a working solution if he too is willing.