CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice’s nomination of a Republican Party operative to a public broadcasting oversight board has prompted concern about the appointee’s credentials and whether the GOP governor will use his political muscle to fill multiple expired seats.
Members of the state Senate Confirmations Committee received notice Friday of the pending appointment of Greg Thomas to the state Educational Broadcasting Authority, which is the governing body of West Virginia Public Broadcasting, the Charleston Gazette-Mail reported.
Senate Minority Leader Stephen Baldwin, a Greenbrier County Democrat, said Monday that Thomas’ background doesn’t make him a good fit for the authority.
The pending appointment “stood out like a sore thumb,” Baldwin said. “You’ve got an outwardly partisan political operative being nominated to a position that doesn’t call for that at all.”
A spokesman for the governor didn’t immediately respond to an email request for comment Tuesday from The Associated Press.
Thomas has worked for several GOP politicians, including the campaign of convicted former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship’s failed U.S. Senate run in 2018. He also works for the nonprofit group West Virginia Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse.
Justice is part of the 11-member EBA, whose members are chosen by the governor. Five current members are serving expired terms and another seat is set to expire on June 30. There is one vacancy from the death of a longtime member last September.
Justice has been critical of overall media coverage of his failed attempt this year to lower income taxes and shift the burden to sales taxes.
In 2017, Justice’s initial budget proposal sought to eliminate state funding for West Virginia Public Broadcasting, which lawmakers eventually fully funded. The GOP-controlled Senate made a failed attempt to eliminate funding for the authority in the 2021-22 state budget during the most recent session.
Baldwin said he is concerned that Justice will use his power to appoint EBA members to accomplish what Senate Republicans couldn’t.
“I’m very concerned, after last session showed they would be happy to defund West Virginia Public Broadcasting,” he said.
Thomas and Authority Chairman Bill File did not immediately respond to requests for comment. File’s term expired in 2016. Under state law, members of state boards and commissions continue to serve after their terms have expired until replacements are appointed.