Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

W.VA. ETHICS COMMISSION ; Self-Promotion Using Taxpayer Money Curbed; Use of Photographs Restricted, Trinkets ID'ing Officials Banned

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

W.VA. ETHICS COMMISSION ; Self-Promotion Using Taxpayer Money Curbed; Use of Photographs Restricted, Trinkets ID'ing Officials Banned

Article excerpt

West Virginia public officials will have to strictly limit the number of pictures of themselves that are posted on their official agency websites, trash any banners or displays featuring their names and/or photos and toss any promotional items or trinkets they have in inventory, even if the items were purchased before the effective date of a law banning such trinkets, the state Ethics Commission ruled Thursday. Issuing its first advisory opinion on the new state law barring public officials from using taxpayer money for self- promotional trinkets, advertising or entertainment (HB2457), the commission imposed sharp restrictions.

Among the highlights of the advisory opinion unanimously approved Thursday:

* On official agency websites, photographs of public officials are to be limited to two locations: the website's home page and a biographical page for the official.

"I agree, 100 percent, said Commissioner Betty Ireland, a former secretary of state. "You don't need your picture on every page.

* Any trinkets or promotional items featuring a public official's name or image cannot be distributed to the public, even if the items were purchased before the trinkets law went into effect on May 28.

The draft advisory opinion would have allowed public officials to use up any inventory of trinkets and promotional items on hand, but Commissioner Larry Tweel argued that that would be at odds with the intent of the law.

"The opinion should not say, We think it's OK to use material that was previously ordered and stockpiled,' he said, before amending the opinion to ban those items.

With the ruling, public officials must throw away such trinkets, although commissioners agreed that items such as pens and pencils could be used as office supplies by agency employees, so long as they aren't given to the public.

* Banners, table skirts and other display items featuring public officials' names or images must be trashed. …

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