Chris Walters: We must eliminate waste and abuse, strengthen ethics laws
EDITOR'S NOTE: This is one of a series of columns written by candidates in contested races in the Nov. 6 general election.
In the past few months we have learned from statehouse reporters West Virginia is squandering its $126 million federal stimulus grant for broadband deployment. At the same time, we are learning that three state employees may be in trouble because they questioned a bid process that yielded a winner that would cost the state the most money and the work would be done out of state. In addition, one paper reported that state taxpayers were paying the hotel and commuting tab for the new Department of Health Human Resources secretary. No wonder the state is heading into a budget crisis with this type of mismanagement running rampant.
State leaders must be held accountable. They should spend taxpayer dollars carefully. Take the router mess: No business person would spend that amount of money as the state did. Instead of buying mega-routers for all locations, most individuals and businesses would have assessed the need for each location and then deployed the appropriate router. In addition, a prudent person would have purchased only what was needed. According to the Eyre series of articles, there are several hundred of these routers in storage because they have nowhere to put them.
Why does a rural library need an Internet router that costs $22,000 when the local Radio Shack has one that will work for less than $200? Who made this decision and why? Did anyone profit by taking advantage of taxpayers? These are the same types of questions, among others, being asked by federal investigators.
Then there is the Department of Health and Human Resources' advertising contract. My first concern is the lack of transparency that surrounds this matter. Here is what I have gleaned from the press accounts. There was a Request for Proposals for advertising services for the department. The process produced a winner that was the most expensive and was an out-of-state firm. Three department employees were placed on administrative leave because they raised questions. Again, a prudent business person would have never selected the most expensive firm if the competing firm's technical abilities were close, as was the case in this situation.
Next comes word the newest state acting cabinet secretary was being put up in the Marriott and Embassy Suites hotels at state expense, and the state taxpayers are paying for his mileage from his home area. If he wants to live outside of Charleston and commute, that is his choice. Hundreds of state workers commute on a daily basis with one major difference: The state does not cover their travel expenses or put them up in luxury hotels.
Each of these situations point to rampant waste of taxpayer dollars and, in fact, may be ethical breeches on part of government leaders. It is time for the state leaders to become accountable to the taxpayers. We must break this cycle of go-along and get-along. Complacency breeds apathy and will lead to corruption.
One of my first actions upon being a senator is to revi ew the current ethics laws and staff. It is my belief tax dollars are being wasted. We must eliminate fraud waste and abuse and strengthen our ethic commission so it can do the job it was intended to do.
Chris Walters, a resident of Nitro, is the Republican candidate for the West Virginia Senate in District 8, which includes parts of Putnam and Kanawha counties.