by Ron Gregory
LOGAN — Responding to a Corridor Chronicle Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, allegations that a state senator used public school equipment on school time for political purposes have been confirmed.
Logan County Clerk John Turner provided copies of FOIA requests from now-Senator Richard Ojeda sent to the clerk’s office in 2015. At least one of the Ojeda FOIAs clearly shows that it was faxed to Turner’s office at 10:18 am on November 30, 2015. The copy shows it came from telephone number 304-855-1911 and goes on to identify that as the fax number for “CRHS.”
CRHS is the acronym for Chapmanville Regional High School and the telephone number has been confirmed as the school’s number in 2015.
Ojeda has campaigned against former County Commission President Art Kirkendoll for a number of years. He ran unsuccessfully against former Congressman Nick Joe Rahall in 2014, then defeated Kirkendoll for the Senate seat in 2016. Ojeda claims to have been beaten two days before the May primary in which he beat Kirkendoll. According to his wife, Ojeda had suffered a stroke a short time before the alleged attack which occurred at a political picnic.
Ojeda is the Junior ROTC sponsor and instructor at CRHS. As such, according to school administrators, he is subject to the rules and regulations of the Logan School system as well as CRHS rules.
While saying she had not heard of the fax before, CRHS Principal Kathy Moore said, “I can tell you that using school equipment, including a fax machine, for personal use is against county and school policies. If such an infraction was brought to our attention, we would certainly investigate it.”
School Board President Paul Hardesty agreed. “If school equipment is used improperly,” he said, “we will look into it and handle it appropriately.”
Ojeda has accused Kirkendoll and most of his associates of violating rules, policies and laws as he has attacked the ex-Senator’s character on social media and elsewhere during the past five or more years. As JROTC instructor, he himself has been accused of campaigning on school property and of wearing a military uniform for campaign purposes in violation of military regulations.
Most recently, Ojeda accused Kirkendoll of working as a private consultant to the Logan Commission without a contract. On WOWK-TV he said Kirkendoll and County Commissioners were violating state law by not bidding the work Kirkendoll has been doing for the county. He has also accused Kirkendoll of falsely answering a question on a financial report.
When told that state and local bidding procedures do not require the bidding for professional services, Ojeda has ignored reporters. He had also told WOWK, according to the station’s reporter, that an ethics complaint would be filed against Kirkendoll last week. At press time, there was no indication such a complaint had been filed.
The Chronicle instituted its own investigation of Ojeda after he made the comment to WOWK that “public officials should be held accountable. If they break the rules, they should go to jail and pay fines.” Constant reports to the paper had indicated that Ojeda had committed infractions himself
“He sure is one of the best examples of the pot calling the kettle black,” said one caller, who notified the paper of the FOIA date stamp on school time using school equipment.
In his FOIA, Ojeda asked for information about all documents “on how Arthur Kirkendoll consulted with the county commission in exchange for the fees he was paid for the last six months.” He also requested the county commission check register for January through August 2015, and for a history of “Dean Ball services provided to the county commission with the cost associated.”
The Chronicle will continue its independent investigation of Ojeda’s public filings. We will also provide a copy of his FOIA request to CRHS and Logan school officials.