Enforcement of rules must be consistent

Surely West Virginians understand by now that firm, consistent enforcement of ethics rules for public officials is required in our state. Our long, sordid recent history of corruption makes that clear.

Yet enforcement of the rules has not been consistent. Take the case of former state lottery director Alan Larrick.

During a meeting of the House of Delegates Finance Committee last week, current Lottery Director John Myers was asked about Larrick. Del. Isaac Sponaugle wanted to know if lottery officials have looked into a property transaction involving Larrick.

It has been reported that Larrick, while lottery director, sold a house in Glade Springs Resort to Steven Gale Johnston, who is director of the casino at the The Greenbrier. That may have been a violation of state law.

“The only thing I know about it at all is that I understand (Larrick) took a loss on the house,” Myers told Sponaugle, D-Pendleton.

Sponaugle then asked Myers to turn any information he has on the matter over to the Legislature’s Commission on Special Investigations.

Larrick sold the house in January 2018 for $360,000, according to a published report. Months later, in September 2018, he resigned as lottery director.

That happened after it was revealed that Larrick, an attorney in Beckley, continued to practice law after being named lottery director. That, too, was a violation of state law.

How is it that Larrick was able to get away with not one but two apparent breaches of state ethics laws? In addition to looking into the property transaction, the Legislature’s investigative body should be asking that. Such a lackadaisical attitude toward ensuring public officials obey ethics rules does not bode well for honest government in West Virginia.