Parks Board to Keep Director ; Jeff Hutchinson Was Criticized over Coonskin Tree Removal

By Nyden, Paul J. | The Charleston Gazette (Charleston, WV), October 18, 2014 | Go to article overview

Parks Board to Keep Director ; Jeff Hutchinson Was Criticized over Coonskin Tree Removal


Nyden, Paul J., The Charleston Gazette (Charleston, WV)


Jeff Hutchinson will remain director of the Kanawha County Parks and Recreation Commission, after commission members voted 6-1 on Thursday morning to keep him in the job. Last year, Hutchinson hired logger David Russell Bowen to clean up and repair damage in Coonskin Park from derecho storms in 2012. Hutchinson and other Parks Commission officials said Bowen was authorized to cut down 31 trees.

Bowen cut down 360 trees before the state Division of Forestry stopped his operations.

Bowen went to trial earlier this year over the allegations and was found not guilty. There was no written contract between the Parks Commission and Bowen. Some commission members said the absence of any written contract with Bowen showed poor judgment by Hutchinson.

The six commission members voting to keep Hutchinson were Allen Tackett, Chris Hamilton, Stuart Smith, Janet Drumheller, John Huddleston and Buck Chestnut. Board member Pat Donahoe cast the only vote against keeping Hutchinson. He did not give any specific reasons but said he received many phone calls from local citizens complaining about Hutchinson.

New board member Andrew Jordon, who was appointed Wednesday, abstained from the vote.

In the future, the Parks Commission will require Hutchinson to keep a record of his daily activities, get commission approval before making purchases over $3,000 and inform the commission about all his financial expenses at each of its monthly meetings. Chuck Bailey, the commission's lawyer, must also approve all future financial expenditures by Hutchinson or anyone else on the commission's staff.

In addition to the controversy over the timbering, Hutchinson paid a fine of $1,500 in 2013, after the state Ethics Commission said Hutchinson should not have used a state vehicle to drive his son to school, should not have offered discounts for the use of picnic shelters and other park facilities to charity groups, and should have told the commission about a set of golf clubs he received as a gift.

At that time, parks commissioners said they had given permission to Hutchinson to use the car for private purposes and to offer discounts to some customers. …

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