by Ron Gregory
Charleston – State Ethics Commission Director Rebecca Stepto says no changes have been made in reporting requirements for the commission’s annual Financial Disclosure Statement. Accepting that fact and examining the last three year’s forms completed by Logan State Senator Richard Ojeda, one would reach the conclusion that sources of income has dropped dramatically.
In looking at the report for 2016, Ojeda lists income for himself from the Logan County Board of Education at Chapmanville Regional High School as Junior ROTC senior instructor; a military retirement from the U.S. Army; and a military disability from the U.S. Army. The form shows that his wife, Kelly, received income for “VA Caregiver Pay” from the Veterans Administration.
The form requires that those completing it, which includes elected officials and candidates, include all income over $1,000 from the previous year.
Thus, Ojeda’s completed 2016 form should have reflected his household income sources over $1,000 for 2015.
Moving to the 2017 report, however, Ojeda lists just two incomes of more than $1,000. One, he says, is his check from Logan County Schools for the Jr. ROTC program. The other is his retirement from the Army. Gone is any indication that in 2016, he or his spouse received the disability check or the caregiver pay.
In his 2018 report, covering 2017, Ojeda lists only his State Senate salary (approximately $20,000) and his wife’s employment at Logan Pediatrics. Thus, even his retirement check from the Army seems to have disappeared.
Stepto will not address specific individual forms but when asked about reporting requirements said “there have been no reporting changes since 2011.” The information provided by Ojeda for the three years is in answer to identical questions on the form each time.
The Logan senator refuses to talk with the Corridor Chronicle or return phone calls or answer email messages. Thus, he allows the changes in his reporting to remain open to speculation as it often does on social media and on the streets of the district he represents.
Some Facebook followers had insisted that Kelly Ojeda was listed as receiving caregiver pay because she is required to assist the senator in virtually every aspect of living. Requirements for becoming a caregiver under Veterans Administration rules are strict and published by the federal government.
Others believe Kelly Ojeda is a caregiver for one or more of the couple’s children, although requirements for that would be difficult to meet as well.
Many of the questions involving the senator’s finances come from the public learning, from articles in the Corridor Chronicle, that Ojeda received a homestead exemption on his property taxes from Logan Assessor Glen Adkins. Since there are only three ways to qualify for such exemptions, the question has been which one of those does Adkins and Ojeda believe he meets.
The three reasons are: the property owner is over the age of 65; the property owner is 100 physically disabled; or the property owner is 100% mentally disabled.
Although Ojeda has steadfastly refused to speak about the exemption in detail, he appeared to be maintaining that he earned the credit through a military disability. His recent ethics reporting calls that theory into question since he does not seem to get the disability check any more.
The Corridor Chronicle filed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests last year with Adkins and the State Tax Department asking to see Ojeda’s homestead exemption application. Although, by law, government agencies have no more than five days to respond to such requests, there has yet to be a formal response from either the Assessor or the Tax Department.
Every effort will be made by the newspaper, however, to bring all facts concerning these matters to the general public.