CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – A simmering dispute has erupted over the financing of a new baseball stadium for Marshall University. It once again pits Republican Governor Jim Justice against Republican leaders in the State Senate.
Last September, Justice was among those presenting a check to Marshall for $13.8 million from the governor’s discretionary account to help complete a new baseball stadium. The Senate Finance Committee says $10 million of that money came from the federal CARES act money to recover from COVID-19. But the governor’s office says federal guidelines say monies can be used for rebuilding economic development and tourism hurt by COVID.
There are concerns that if any money was spent improperly, it will have to be sent back to Washington.
“We had a significant and lengthy hearing on this with the governor’s chief counsel on Friday. We had the ethics commission in front of us. And we also had the JB McCuskey, the state auditor in front of us. Auditor McCuskey testified that this was very unusual. The most that account has ever had in the past was $50,000 dollars so it threw up red flags,” said State Sen.Eric Tarr, (R) Putnam – Finance Chairman.
“The insinuation or accusation that there’s anything unethical or illegal, can’t be further from the truth. I mean we vetted that program and the actual transaction through our accountants, through our lawyers,” said Brian Abraham, Chief of Staff to Gov. Justice.
The two sides were reviewing old feuds today, with senate leaders accusing the governor of creating photo ops for a potential U.S. Senate campaign next year. While the governor’s office says senate leaders just can’t get over their loss on Amendment 2 in November, a defeat they blame on the governor’s statewide campaign against them.
Even though members of the state ethics committee attended the finance committee hearing, so far no formal ethics complaint has been filed against the governor’s office.