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FOP attorney: Morgantown police oversight ordinance could still land in court

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The attorney representing the Mon-Preston Fraternal order of police. Teresa Toriseva is pleased the current citizens police review committee ordinance passed by Morgantown city council, some provisions could still send the two sides to the courtroom.

“Most of what offended civil service and violated state law has been taken out of this ordinance,” Toriseva said,” In concept, of course the FOP is not opposed to what some of the goals are.”

Additionally, Toriseva believes the national climate regarding policing and a lack of a clear understanding of how the existing process works could be part of the reason officials spent 10 months producing the ordinance that would ultimately be pared back.

“The Civil Service Commission that reviews investigations is not made up of police officers. It’s made up of three people- one appointed by the city, one appointed by police and one by the community,” Toriseva said,” So, I think there’s a lot of misinformation about the need because of fears based on what we’re seeing on the national news.”

There are two concerns about the ordinance for Toriseva. One provision that would allow the board to interview witnesses and the other that would allow the board to provide input to the chief of police prior to a final decision is made regarding discipline.

“Unfortunately, we’re still headed to court,” Toriseva said,” It is a much more discreet couple of issues than what really was a disaster of a proposal that has mostly been gutted.”

City council can still amend the provisions from the ordinance to avoid court.

Toriseva and Attorney General Patrick Morrisey raised caution when some provisions would violate portions of state code. Those things included allowing the nine person board investigatory powers and the ability to hold hearings.

“We still hope to avoid court, but if this ordinance passes as is we will challenge the provisions that violate civil service laws,” Toriseva said.

Toriseva noted every use of force incident in Morgantown is reviewed, police officers wear mandatory body cameras and choke holds are, and have been banned well before May 25, 2020. Further, she says police officers want more transparency.

“We’re simply pushing back on anyone trying to chip away at the Police Civil Service Commission which creates and governs every aspect of hiring, firing, discipline and investigation of police officers in the entire state of West Virginia.”

Source: Local News | 104.5 FM & 1440 AM | The Voice of Morgantown | Morgantown, WV

Morgantown Fire Civil Service Commission sets second meeting date for differential pay dispute

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The Morgantown Fire Civil Service Commission will meet in special session May 12 at 9 a.m. Commission members will hold a hearing for 47 firefighters seeking to have differential pay restored. This is the second meeting for the two sides on the issue.

Morgantown City Manager Kim Haws released a statement saying changes made were due to inaccuracies noted during a review by a consultant of the Classification and Compensation study and updates to City Personnel Rules. Changes in differential pay policy resulted in a $2,000 annual pay reduction for the 47 firefighters.

Wheeling attorney, Teresa Toriseva represents members of the International Association of Firefighters Local 313 in a retaliation lawsuit. According to that lawsuit, the city is being accused of making the decision on differential pay in response to a previous lawsuit over holiday pay, which was further emphasized by accusations made by city officials over Morgantown Fire Department improprieties.

Legal counsel for Morgantown, Ryan Simonton of Kay Casto and Chaney said the firefighters are not being targeted over the change in pay. In particular, the change in differential pay was a correction that was made across the board with all city employees.

During a special session in April, members of the Fire Civil Service Commission asked the city and firefighters to work out a settlement.

Source: Local News | 104.5 FM & 1440 AM | The Voice of Morgantown | Morgantown, WV

West Virginia Treasurer ready to take on Biden administration over climate policy

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – According to West Virginia treasurer Riley Moore, President Biden’s administration is putting pressure banks to stop financing fossil fuel industries. On WAJR’s Talk of the Town, Moore said he is looking the claims very seriously and plans to take action if financial institutions are not acting in the best interests of West Virginians.

“John Kerry and the Biden administration have been in discussions with different financial institutions across the country to pressure them to stop financing and lending to coal, natural gas or any fossil fuel industries out there.”

Moore says that this plan goes against our values as a country and state. He adds that he will defend West Virginia residents working in legal industries that are threatened in cases like this.

“We still do live in American the last time I checked. Coal and natural gas are legal industries,” Moore said,” Apparently we’re moving in a fashion that’s trying to make this an unfinanceable undertaking here in the United States which I think is completely un-American.”

This week, Senate Republicans sent a letter to the Biden administration opposing the practice of discouraging investment in fossil fuels while encouraging investment in alternative fuels.

“I did have a coal company come to me saying their bank had reached out to them and said they we’re getting a tremendous amount of pressure to divest and stop financing your operation from the president,” Moore said.

Moore said he will sanction financial institutions if he finds evidence of cutting off funding coal, natural gas and related industries.

“We want all the lending institutions to certainly be on notice that we are looking at this,” Moore said,” I was elected to fight for the people of this state and I’m going to start throwing some elbows.”

Moore referred to Kerry as a “Learjet liberal” and promised to fight against policies that hurt the residents of West Virginia.

“They are coming after us- our industries, our people and this is one way we can try to fight back,” Moore said.

Allowing the federal government to influence the financial industry will erode all freedoms, especially financial freedom.

“They are trying to pick winners and losers,” Moore said. “They are trying to say coal and gas is a loser, and they’re trying to push banks to no longer offer lending and financing of the fossil fuel industry. I think it’s un-American, and I think it serves the interests of those that are diametrically opposed to our way of life.”

Source: Local News | 104.5 FM & 1440 AM | The Voice of Morgantown | Morgantown, WV

Mylan workers continue to fight for the Chestnut Ridge facility

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – A petition on behalf of United Steelworkers Local 8-957 members at the Morgantown Viatris plant would appear to be a final effort to ask lawmakers to take action in order to save the Chestnut Ridge Road facility formerly operated as Mylan Pharmaceuticals.

Since the late 1960’s Mylan has operated the facility that now employs about 1,500. About 850 are members of the United Steelworkers Local 8-957. Union officials say 850 union workers will lose their jobs if the plant closes as scheduled July 31, 2021. The closure is part of the Viatris plan to cut $1 billion in costs by the end of 2024.

In March, union members traveled to Washington D.C. and met with dozens of members of the U.S. House and U.S. Senate. Then, union members called the plant closure a “national security” issue and wanted the Defense Production Act invoked.

During the legislative session, The West Virginia House of Delegates and Senate passed resolutions calling for elected officials, labor organizations, industry leaders and economic development representatives to take action. Mon County Delegate Barbara Fleischauer even asked her peers to arrange a tour of the facility or meet with some of the workers.

President of the United Steelworkers Local 8-957, Joe Gouzd tells WAJR News lawmakers likely won’t get a tour if they request one.

“The United Steel Workers Union has asked for a tour of the facility for the past two years,” Gouzd said,” Each time we’ve asked to enter the facility we have been told by corporate they are unable to participate in our request.”

Gouzd said some of the work is being done in Morgantown will move to Viatris facilities in India where record numbers of the virus are being reported daily and the country is running out of oxygen and therapeutics. Since the closure was announced in December, union leaders and lawmakers have persistently questioned why the facility can’t be repurposed.

“Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). The facility could be retrofitted to make a number of different things,” Gouzd said,” Perhaps rubber gloves or N-95 masks.”

Shortly after the closure was announced Governor Jim Justice conducted a meeting with Viatris officials. Justice said then the Viatris management team was committed to finding someone to operate the facility. At the time, the governor said he had no advance knowledge of their intention to close the plant and wanted an opportunity to work with executives to stop the closure.

“We’re asking Governor Jim Justice to keep our jobs here and let us manufacture medicines for the National Defense Act or the Veterans Administration.”

Also in December, Viatris officials said severance packages would be available and negotiated individually with each employee. According Gouzd, with time running out there has been little information provided by the company leaving even more questions for employees and families.

“There have been very few talks regarding the severance,’ Gouzd said,” I fact, corporate has been quite evasive to give any kind of facts or a fair resolution of the severance.”

To use a sports analogy, the clock is running down in the fourth quarter and employees at Viatris in Morgantown are running out of chances to keep the plant from closing.

“That’s where we’re at today,” Gouzd said,” We need help politically, we need help economically, we need help and we’re not ashamed to ask for it,” Gouzd said.”

Source: Local News | 104.5 FM & 1440 AM | The Voice of Morgantown | Morgantown, WV

Beckley basketball player killed in shooting
Source: Local News | 104.5 FM & 1440 AM | The Voice of Morgantown | Morgantown, WV

MHS senior one of five WVU Foundation Scholars

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Five West Virginia students, including Daniel McDonald from Morgantown High School, have been selected as West Virginia University Foundation Scholars.

Laasya Chennuru from Martinsburg High School, Lilah Coe from Herbert Hoover High School, Emily Escue from South Charleston High School, Isaac McCarthy from Musselman High School were also named as scholars.

“I am energized each spring as I meet our latest cohort of Foundation Scholars,” WVU President Gordon Gee said. “They inspire me with their dreams. And at West Virginia University, we will give them the tools to achieve their aspirations to build successful careers and make breakthroughs that will extend beyond the borders of our state to the rest of the world.”

McDonald has a goal of developing assistive technology to improve mobility for patients suffering disease or injury. McDoanld will blend robotics and and biology by majoring in mechanical engineering and biomedical engineering. McDonald will continue his work with the Appalachian Prison Book Project and hopes to use his stipend to develop exoskeletons and orthoses at the IHMC Robotic Lab in Pensacola, Florida.

Chennuru has learned about the value of the patient doctor relationship through volunteering at the Martinsburg VA Medical Center. She wants to pursue a degree in biochemistry and ultimately become a pediatrician. She will minor in psychology and medical humanities and health studies and plans to join the WVU Global Medical Brigades and serve as a counselor at Camp Kesem.

Coe watched her younger brother suffer from a congenital brain disorder and her running coach deal with Parkinson’s disease. She will pursue a degree in biology. She is a statewide semifinalist for the 2021 National Merit Scholarship, the high school winner of the Third Annual Pearl S. Buck Writing Competition for her poem titled “West Virginia Is” and has earned a varsity letter in track and field. Coe looks forward to joining the WVU Track Club and Baskets of Love and plans to study abroad at the University of Trento in Italy.

Escue will major in biochemistry and seeks to help transform primary health care for women and other underrepresented patients as an obstetrician-gynecologist. She plans to use her stipend to serve as an intern with Health Care for the Homeless in Louisville, Kentucky, to gain insight that will enable her to advocate for and break down barriers to advanced health equity.

McCarthy is a second generation WVU Foundation Scholar and will pursue a degree in music and health. He plays more than a dozen instruments and is most proud of his 5th chair 2020-21 All-State Band placement. McCarthy plans to join the Concert Band and other WVU ensembles. Once pandemic restrictions lift, he would like to use his stipend to study music abroad such as The Irish World Academy of Music and Dance in Limerick, Ireland.

To qualify, students must be residents of West Virginia, have a minimum GPA of 3.8 and achieving a minimum composite score of 31 on the ACT or the equivalent SAT score. The value of the Foundation Scholarship, when paired with the state’s PROMISE Scholarship, is more than $90,000 over four years.

Twenty of the applicants who interviewed for the Foundation Scholarship were named Neil S. Bucklew Scholars.

Source: Local News | 104.5 FM & 1440 AM | The Voice of Morgantown | Morgantown, WV

Patient registration open for state medical cannabis program

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The West Virginia Office of Medical Cannabis is now reviewing applications from West Virginians with serious medical conditions for medical cannabis patient cards.

The West Virginia Medical Cannabis Act permits West Virginia residents with serious medical conditions to use forms of cannabis certified for medical use. Once approved, patients will have access to pills, oils, gels, creams, or ointments, forms suitable vaporization or nebulization, plant form, tincture, liquid and dermal patches.

“There are many West Virginians who are experiencing chronic pain due to a serious medical condition,” said Dr. Ayne Amjad, State Health Officer and Commissioner of the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources’ Bureau for Public Health. “Registering for a medical cannabis card through the web portal will ensure these patients will have access to medical cannabis at the time products are available, which is anticipated by fall 2021.”

A list of physicians registered to certify patients as eligible for the use of medical cannabis is available on the website. Though the registered physician will certify that the patient is eligible, the patient must apply for a patient identification card on the website.

Physicians interested in obtaining authorization to certify medical cannabis patients must complete an approved 4-hour course along with the registration application, which can be found here.

Source: Local News | 104.5 FM & 1440 AM | The Voice of Morgantown | Morgantown, WV

Jones Named 2021 WV College/University Mathematics Teacher of the Year

FAIRMONT, W.Va. – Fairmont State University faculty member, Dr. Stephanie Jones, has been named the 2021 College/University Mathematics Teacher of the Year by the West Virginia Council of Teachers of Mathematics. She was honored during a virtual meeting on Saturday, April 24.

When Jones learned she had received this recognition she was both shocked and grateful.

“I was definitely surprised, but also felt very honored. This recognition makes me feel like the work I’ve been doing is appreciated,” said Dr. Stephanie Jones, Fairmont State University assistant professor. “My students are hands down the best part of my job, and my motivation to continue introducing new, innovative methods of teaching.”

Jones was nominated by her peers who called her work ‘always impeccable.’ Jones was also nominated by her peers for implementing active learning components and online math support programs.

“We at Fairmont State are thrilled that our colleague Dr. Stephanie Jones has been recognized statewide for her contributions to mathematics education,” said Dr. Steven Roof, Dean of the Fairmont State University College of Science and Technology. “We know firsthand her dedication to the profession and her passion for teaching, assisting, and pushing students to achieve more than they thought possible.”

Jones serves as an Assistant Professor of Mathematics Education at Fairmont State, where she primarily teaches education courses for elementary and secondary teacher candidates. Prior to her tenure at Fairmont State, Jones taught math at Fairmont Senior High School for nine years and was named Secondary Mathematics Teacher of the Year by the West Virginia Council of Teachers in 2015.

Jones graduated with bachelor’s degrees from Fairmont State in mathematics, mathematics education and chemistry education in 2004. She received a master’s degree in mathematics from West Virginia University, and possesses a doctorate of education in curriculum and instruction from WVU.

“We are grateful to have Dr. Jones as a member of our Falcon Family,” said Mirta M. Martin, Fairmont State University President. “Her work has made a profound impact on the lives of our students, and I can think of no one more deserving of this award. We look forward to the continued strengthening of mathematics education throughout the state as Dr. Jones inspires future educators.”

“There’s so much opportunity as a math teacher throughout the state, especially at the secondary level in middle school and high school,” Jones said. “Don’t be afraid to break the mold – I encourage my students to develop lesson plans where they’re promoting conversations and engaging students, rather than just providing problems for them to solve and practice.”

Source: Local News | 104.5 FM & 1440 AM | The Voice of Morgantown | Morgantown, WV

Morgantown parking vendor reports data breach

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Morgantown officials are advising ParkMobile users to change account passwords following a recent data breach. Users can go to the ParkMobile app or website to see more information or for questions.

In the coming days ParkMobile plans to communicate with its users through other channels as well.

ParkMobile’s investigation has confirmed basic account information – license plate numbers and, if provided by the user, email addresses and/or phone numbers, and vehicle nicknames – was accessed. In a small percentage of cases, mailing addresses were affected. No credit cards or parking transaction history were accessed, and we do not collect Social Security numbers, driver’s license numbers, or dates of birth.

The Morgantown Parking Authority uses ParkMobile as a convenient payment option in its metered lots and metered parking spaces.

Source: Local News | 104.5 FM & 1440 AM | The Voice of Morgantown | Morgantown, WV

WVU officials, students wrestle with mental health issues

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – In October of 2020, West Virginia University president Gordon Gee noted the pandemic magnified mental health challenges during the State of the University Address and made it a priority. Now following the apparent suicide of Benjamin Pravecek, 20, students are asking the school for more access to mental health services.

Officials began to ramp their ability to deal with mental health capacity with that direction. While adding staff, officials began to work on a plan to broaden the scope of services available at the Carruth Center.

The efforts drew little attention until around noon Friday, April 16 Pravecek died of a fall from a University Avenue parking garage. Witnesses called 911 and after an investigation the medical examiner identified the victim as Pravecek.

“We’ve added six or seven members counselors to our staff,” Farris said,” We’ve also been working on, and will launch it this summer, Healthy Minds University where we’re going to add an additional layer of support for our students.”

Days later hundreds attended a remembrance ceremony on campus.

Student Nicolette Rich was part of a group of students who rallied at the Mountainlair recently calling for changes in the system and services offered at the Carruth Center.

“They all really wanted to see a change at WVU especially with their mental services,” Rich said,” Especially in light of the passing of Benjamin Pravecek.”

According to Rich, the Carruth Center was not responsive or inadequate.

“My friend witnessed the suicide and wanted to go the Carruth Center and talk about it,” Rich said,” They turned him away and told his issue wasn’t as important as other people’s issue.”

There have been reports on social media that students have been “turned away” from the Carruth Center. Farris contends the Carruth Center is a short-term care facility and that counselors are available 24-hours-a-day and students are encouraged to use them if they have a problem.

However, referrals can sometimes be difficult for someone suffering a mental health issue to understand.

” Sometimes students perceive us getting them help from a different person as turning them away,” Farris said,” When in reality we’ve seen them and we’ll continue to see them until they get engaged with that counselor that can help them or that psychiatrist, but the goal is to get them the best help possible.”

Going back to that speech in October of 2020, Gee cited studies by the American Psychological Association and the Pew Research Center. Both studies warned of significantly higher rates of mental illness due to pandemic-related isolation.

“That’s the point of having our counselors available and the Carruth Center 24-7 and allowing students to have that emergency walk-in care,” Farris said,” So again, we treat each student individually and understand what’s going on at that moment.”

Source: Local News | 104.5 FM & 1440 AM | The Voice of Morgantown | Morgantown, WV