CLARKSBURG, W.Va. (WBOY) — The former Clarksburg mayor, vice mayor and a city council member have all been found to have probable cause to believe that they violated the West Virginia Ethics Act, according to the Probable Cause Review Board of the West Virginia Ethics Commission.
The review board, according to public records, found probable cause to believe that former mayor James Marino, former vice mayor Lillie Junkins and former council member Gary Keith violated the state code’s provisions against:
- Using public office “for his or her own private gain or that of another person.”
- Voting on a matter “In which they, an immediate family member, or a business with which they or an immediate family member is associated have a financial interest.”
- Not physically removing themselves from the room during a recusal in order to make sure that recusal is effective.
The three were elected in 2019 and began serving on City Council on July 1, 2019. The review board wrote in its filings that Marino, Junkins and Keith’s terms were extended by one year after the city’s charter was changed to hold municipal elections on West Virginia’s primary election day. The board said the three did not benefit financially from the change.
“The New Election Date Ordinance was flawed because it failed to reconcile the current Council members’ terms of office with the proposal to hold the first even-numbered year election in 2022 and the next one in 2024. The terms of offices of the Council members elected in 2019 for four-year terms would expire on June 30 2023, but the next City election would not occur until June 2024,” the review board wrote.
The review board outlined similar issues with the Direct Election of Mayor and Extension of Terms Ordinance, which would have extended the three’s terms by one year, and extended the terms of the four city council members who were elected in 2021 by one year as well, with one council position being eliminated in 2026 and the directly-election position of mayor being created that year.
The review board said Marino, Junkins and Keith did not recuse themselves from that vote, and they all voted in opposition of the ordinance during the first reading; and during the second reading, Marino was not present so he did not vote, and the other two voted against the ordinance.
The issue ended up being placed on the June 2021 General Election ballot, and the voters passed it, although the title and description on the ballot “did not reference the one-year term extension for Council members Junkins, Keith, and Marino, but the summary did.”
Another Charter Amendment was then proposed, 23-4, which would end the terms of offices for the city council seats held by Marino, Junkins and Keith. The review board alleges that the three did not recuse themselves from the discussion and vote, and that Junkins and Marino voted in opposition of the ordinance while Keith voted in favor.
Another amendment placed the city council seats on the upcoming 2023 ballot, and the three voted along the same lines.
The Probable Cause Review Board found that there is probable cause to believe the three violated the Ethics Act in the following ways:
- Not recusing himself from six different votes that would affect the length of his term in office.
- Use of office for private gain, “by knowingly and intentionally participating in votes in which he had a financial interest.”
- Not recusing herself from six different votes that would affect the length of her term in office.
- Use of office for private gain, “by knowingly and intentionally participating in votes in which she had a financial interest.”
- Not recusing himself from seven different votes that would affect the length of his term in office.
- Use of office for private gain, “by knowingly and intentionally participating in the April 1, 2021, vote to put the Direct Election of Mayor and Extension of Terms Ordinance, which would extend his term of office, on the June 1, 2021, General Election ballot. Keith had a financial interest in this vote.”
The three did not win re-election in the 2023 Clarksburg Municipal Election. The seats were won by Martin Howe, Hattie Wright and Marc Jackson.
Clarksburg City Council members receive $200 per month for serving on Council and have the option to receive health insurance benefits through the city, or a monthly health insurance reimbursement.
Marino, Junkins and Keith are due for another hearing before the West Virginia Ethics Commission in Charleston on Tuesday, Sept. 19 at 10 a.m. “to determine the truth or falsity of the charges set forth.”