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A grand jury has indicted four former executives of a chemical company on pollution charges in a spill that prompted a drinking water ban for 300,000 West Virginia residents. An indictment unsealed Wednesday charges ex-Freedom Industries presidents Gary Southern and Dennis P. Farrell and two others with failing to ensure that Freedom operated the terminal that leaked in a reasonable and environmentally sound manner. Southern also faces fraud charges related to the company's bankruptcy case. The others charged are William E. Tis and Charles E. Hertzing, who along with Farrell owned Freedom until December 2013. They sold it to Chemstream Holdings, after which Southern became president. Two other employees are also facing one count each informations.
West Virginia's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell to 6.3 percent in November. WorkForce West Virginia says that rate compares to 6.5 percent in October. Employment declines of more than 1,000 last month were reported in leisure and hospitality, construction, and professional and business services. Strong employment gains were reported in government. Nationally, the unemployment rate held steady in November at 5.8 percent.
A former Massey Energy CEO wants his criminal case moved and Jan. 26 trial delayed one year. U.S. District Judge Irene Berger heard requests Wednesday in Beckley in Don Blankenship's case. Blankenship's attorney said he couldn't get a fair trial in southern West Virginia because of bad publicity. Also Wednesday, Berger heard news organizations argue against a gag order, which they want dropped or modified. The order restricts parties or victims from discussing the case with reporters or releasing court documents. No decision on that yet. Blankenship is charged with conspiring to violate safety and health standards at the Upper Big Branch Mine where 29 men died in 2010.
A news conference is happening today to announce the latest developments in the federal investigation of the Jan. 9 chemical spill and water crisis. U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin, officials with the FBI and the Environmental Protection Agency will be part of the news conference this afternoon at the Robert C. Byrd Courthouse in Charleston. Last week when criminal charges were filed against former Freedom Industries President Gary Southern, Goodwin said the investigation was continuing and that could lead to more developments. Southern faces bankruptcy fraud, wire fraud and lying under oath charges.
It had been on the agenda for a Thursday meeting, but it's not happening. The subject of renaming Coonskin park has been taken off the agenda for Thursday's Kanawha County Commission meeting. Retired Adjutant Gen. Allen Tackett, head of the Parks and Rec commission, had suggested renaming the park after longtime Kanawha County Commissioner Hoppy Shores because some people might find the Coonskin name offensive. But after the social media storm and controversy it created, the idea of changing the name appears to have been scrapped. Commissioner Dave Hardy told us he was against changing Coonskin Park's name and that he had never heard a single complaint about the name.
Nine counties will receive state funding for school construction projects. The largest award, $1 million, will go to Berkeley County to add six classrooms to Potomack Intermediate School near Martinsburg. Greenbrier, Wirt, Gilmer, Marion, Ohio, Fayette, Upshur and Lincoln will receive smaller grants for projects. The Charleston Gazette reports that the West Virginia School Building Authority approved about $5.6 million for major improvement projects this week.
Dr. Rahul Gupta had been the health officer over both Kanawha and Putnam County, but he is taking a job with the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources in a matter of weeks. The Putnam County Board of Health decided Tuesday night to stop looking for an administrator, at least temporarliy. The board voted to table the search until a replacement for the outgoing Kanawha County executive health officer is found, and WCHS TV reports the Putnam health board will part ways with Kanawha County's at some point. The Putnam County Board of Health will meet again on February 5.
West Virginians are urged to be on the lookout for fake job postings and other online employment scams during the holiday season. Attorney General Patrick Morrisey's office says the holiday season is ripe for these scams because many people take on additional jobs. In a common "secret shopper" scam, people are told to deposit a check they're mailed and use it to buy something at a designated store. You could also be asked to pay for training that never takes place or provide personal and financial information.
Kanawha County Sheriff's deputies are investigating a stabbing at an apartment complex on Dalewood Drive in Cross Lanes that happened Monday morning. Cpl B-D Humphreys says the stabbing happened in the parking lot of Westchester Village Apartments. The victim, Shawna Kelly, said her boyfriend cut her with a knife during an argument. Her boyfriend is 34-year old James Joseph Bradshaw, Jr. of Charleston. Kelly said she was arguing with Bradshaw because he had a stolen motorcycle in the back of her husband’s gray Chevrolet Astro van. Deputies are still looking for the 1992 silver or gray Chevrolet Astro van with West Virginia license plate: 1KM500. A warrant has been issued for Bradshaw charging him with malicious wounding. Anyone with information should call 911. Anonymous tips can go to the website at www.kanawhasheriff.us/law-enforcement/tips.
The head of the Kanawha County Parks and Recreation Commission is seeking to change the name of Coonskin Park in Charleston. Retired state Adj. Gen. Allen Tackett wants to change the park's name because some people are offended by it. The Charleston Gazette reports the name is generally associated with a type of cap made from a raccoon skin but Tackett notes the term could be offensive to others. The commission is set to discuss the name change at a Thursday meeting. One suggestion is naming the park for Kanawha County Commissioner Hoppy Shores, who was just elected to his seventh term. Commissioner Dave Hardy says he's never once heard complaints about the name, and suggests naming the new bridge after Commissioner Shores instead.