W.Va. food fight might be resolved this week

July 15, 2005|by RICHARD F. BELISLE

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Jefferson County Clerk Jennifer Maghan will have to wait another week before she knows if the County Commissioners will authorize repaying her for lunches she bought for 115 county election workers.

The commissioners told Maghan they want to run the matter by their attorney before the county cuts her a check for $1,952 for lunches she delivered to poll workers during a June 25 pension bond election.

She also asked the commissioners Thursday to reimburse her $72.90 for mileage driving to the county's 29 precincts.

The lunch-reimbursement issue has generated controversy since Maghan hired Renaissance Refinishing of Frederick, Md., a firm owned by her brother-in-law, B. Randall Maghan, to provide the lunches.


Maghan said she is not involved with the business and makes no profit from it.

She said she obtained two other bids, both from Frederick County caterers - Catoctin Inn in Buckeystown, Md., and Catering by Cozy Restaurant in Thurmont, Md.

She has said did not obtain bids from Eastern Panhandle caterers.

A spokesperson at the Thurmont restaurant said earlier this week that her company would have provided the food for $1,835.

On July 7, Maghan wrote to Lew Brewer of the West Virginia Ethics Commission asking for a ruling on whether she violated the state ethics code.

She explained in her letter about the bid from her brother-in-law's business and about her plan to buy lunches for the poll workers with proceeds from the sale of voter registration lists rather than budgeted county elections funds.

Maghan told Brewer that she paid the $1,952 from her own pocket and expects to be reimbursed.

Brewer replied in a letter dated Tuesday saying the Ethics Commission "has determined that using government funds to purchase meals for public employees or officials should be supported by some specific authority..."

He further wrote that she was ethically correct to contract with her brother-in-law if she has no personal interest in his business and because she sought two other bids.

"There is no provision in the Ethics Act which restricts you from doing business with a relative outside your household so long as normal competitive procedures are followed," Brewer wrote.

About a half-dozen poll workers attended Thursday's county commission meeting in support of Maghan.

Their spokeswoman credited Maghan with driving 10 hours to deliver the lunches to the workers who were on the job for 16 hours. The workers appreciated the meals, she said.

The commissioners told Maghan they would have a decision by their July 21 meeting.

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