The slimy mud left behind by many floods has a quite offensive odor, as many Ohio Valley residents are aware from personal experience. But the stink arising from West Virginia’s RISE flood relief program may be even worse.
Earlier this year, Gov. Jim Justice suspended RISE operations for a time, then removed the initiative from the Commerce Department and turned it over to the National Guard. Commerce Secretary Woody Thrasher resigned. Several other people left the agency or were fired because of the scandal.
Events this week have made the odor even worse than it had been.
First, it was reported that last September, several Commerce Department officials involved in RISE spent $21,000 in taxpayer money on a retreat at the Stonewall Jackson Resort. Much of the cost was paid out of the nearly $150 million in federal funds provided to help victims of 2016 flooding.
Apparently Charleston was not an atmosphere conducive to planning how to help flood victims.
Then, it came out that former RISE official Russell Tarry, who left the Commerce Department earlier this year, wasted no time in finding a new job. Less than three weeks after he left state employment, he was working for Allied Response LLC — which has a $49 million contract with RISE. Tarry is a construction project manager for the firm.
What Tarry did does not appear to be illegal. Perhaps it should be, however. The revolving door between government at all levels and contractors doing business with it has been the subject of concern for many years.
Regardless of state rules on that score, the Tarry situation has a bad odor to it.
So does RISE administrators enjoying a retreat at a posh resort while flood victims waited for help to get on with their lives.
Unless we miss our guess, there will be more outrageous news regarding RISE and state officials who were part of the fiasco. Thus far, only bad judgment, foot-dragging and waste of taxpayers’ money have been alleged.
But the odor grows worse, sometimes by the day. One wonders whether it is possible to create such a stink without corruption being involved.