Hatfield McCoy Recreation Authority fails to follow WV state purchasing, ethics and employee bonus laws

I've always thought that the name of the Hatfield McCoy Recreational Authority perpetuated stereotypes as did the Hatfield McCoy Mountains tourism region (as compared to say, the name of the Raleigh County Recreation Authority for Beckley or the names of the other regions: New River-Greenbrier Valley, Mountain Lakes, Metro Valley, Mountaineer Country, Eastern Panhandle, Potomac Highlands, Northern Panhandle and Mid-Ohio Valley.)

But I had questions beyond stereotyping after reading AP's WV statehouse reporter, Jonathan Matisse (AP archive, @jonathanmattise, jmattise@ap.org) account that "$1.3 million in leases, insurance policies, labor, catering and other contracts" have benefited board members, the executive director or family, according to a preliminary report by Legislative Auditor Aaron Allred:

- Liability insurance for about $386,300. A board member owns the insurance agency.
- $820,400 in labor. The executive director and another authority board member serve on the contractor's board.
- Industrial storage building lease from the Wyoming County Economic Development Board for about $34,800. One authority board member is a development board employee. The executive director and another board member are development board members.
- Others include: almost $5,900 to a catering company owned by the executive director's mother; $24,300 for vehicle maintenance through a company owned by a board member; $28,400 to a building maintenance company whose board includes the executive director; $23,300 in printing services from a company owned by the executive director's dad; and $36,700 from the state Division of Tourism, for which the executive director serves as a board member.
I wonder about the excuse that authority officials used with the WV leg members today, that it has "has wrongly operated like a nonprofit, not a state agency, for its entire 18-year existence." Such an explanation seems pretty thin, given that a non-profit's bylaws could (and I would say should) prohibit conflicts of interest and nepotism and that its fiscal policies should require competitive bidding and so forth.

Also I wonder what kind of oversight that WV is providing to its state grantees to get away with such for 18 years.

I tried to read up on the history of the trail authority, but  the authority denied me permission to read its blog. And maybe because of snow, the legislature's website (including the code section establishing the trail authority) was down on the evening of 11/18.  As recently as November 2, http://www.register-herald.com/news/mountain-state-s-atv-trail-system-is-the-new-tourism/article_f9f25926-a2b6-5269-b83f-772e00cbbff6.html

So here are my last questions.  Are there any other state-created authorities, and if so, how many other, if any, are behaving this way? Also does similar corporate behavior exist among "real" non-profits with state contracts.

I'd love to have some follow-up from Mr. Mattisse and the other WV statehouse reporters.


Purple Carrot Tarts

Photo  by JJ of the food blog 84th&3rd  accompanied her recipe for July 4, 2012.

The 11/18/14 farm share for Glade Road Growing is slated to include cabbage, kohlrabi, purple carrots, celery and tetsukabuto squash.


Although purple carrots are now more exotic than their orange counterparts, they were actually the norm originally cultivated around Afghanistan with its pigment based on anthocyanins also found in berries.  Since the pigment turns brown upon cooking, I thought I'd feature this recipe which unlike some others, preserves the original color. While JJ makes her version with a spelt crust and uses apple sauce and almond milk, mine uses an almond crust and whole almonds and apples in the filling.

To prepare the almonds:

Blanch 1/2 cup of almonds and remove skins.  Soak overnight.

to make the crust:

The night before you're going to bake the tarts, mix together 2 cups of blanched almond flour, 1/2 tsp sea salt. Cut in 2 TB extra virgin coconut oil, butter or extra virgin olive oil.  Stir in 1 beaten egg.  Divide into six balls and press into tart pans, starting at the center.  Refrigerate, which will allow the fat to congeal.

To make the filling:

1  Wash 1/2 pound of carrots and cut in half  vertically and then into 1  inch pieces.  Wash two apples and core and cut into eights.  Steam carrots and apples  approximately 10-15 minutes until very soft.

2.  Puree carrots, apples and almongs in blender with with 3/4 cups of water  until smooth.  You will use 4 cups of the mixture for this recipe.

3.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

4.  Lightly beat 3 large eggs and whisk together puree and the following:
1 tsp ginger
1/3 tsp cardamom
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 TB honey

Assemble and bake:

Fill tarts and put any extra in a greased shallow dish.  Bake tarts and side dish until center barely jiggles, about 30 minutes.

Serve with whipped cream or a bit of vanilla ice cream, gelato or sorbet..


De Nile Ain't Just a River

Photo of Tommy Davis lost his son Cory along with a brother and nephew at Upper Big Branch by Chris Lawrence to accompany his 4/2/14 story, "Upper Big Branch families want Blankenship prosecuted."


Former Massey CEO Don Blankenship is  "a "tireless advocate for mine safety."

In what alternative universe would folks believe such a description by his attorney William W. Taylor IIIThe science fiction version of the coal industry arrived today in response to today's federal indictment regarding the Upper Big Branch (UBB) explosion that killed 29 miners back in 2010. Blankenship's  record is so egregious (and personality so defiant) that West Virginia native and national journalist and editor Michael Tomasky called him "the coal industry's most gleefully Dickensian figure" back in 2009 and Jeff Goodell described him after UBB as the "Dark Lord of Coal Country" and "the industry's dirtiest CEO."

Ever since the disaster, there have been calls to prosecute Blankenship including a demonstration by some of the family members on the courthouse steps back on April 2, 2014.  Those relatives got some manner of satisfaction today, when U.S. District Attorney Booth Goodwin issued a statement  that Blankenship faces up to 31 years in prison if convicted.

Back in 2010, Pam Napper told the story of her son Joshua's premonition that a disaster  would kill him, but still said the explosion was a "freak accident."  After all the investigations and today's indictment, she has changed her viewpoint about Blankenship.

I think it's about time...He was a big part of this. He knew what was going on in that mine and continued to let it go. I hope he gets what he deserves. I am so excited. They aren't sad tears today. They're happy tears.
Goodwin announced early on that he would not prosecute Alpha Natural Resources (the coal company which bought Massey), saying the corporation was "not a life, it's not a being, it can't go to jail." At the same time, he stressed that he would continue to pursue the evidence. My first thought today, When I received his statement via email was Goodwin has made good on his word.

The charges

Blankenship stands accused of four charges: two counts of conspiracy (to violate mandatory federal mine safety and health standards and to impede federal mine safety officials), one count of  making false statements to the United States Securities and Exchange Commission  and another of committing securities fraud, the latter two stemming from Massey's "willful violation of safety laws" at  UBB:

Blankenship knew that UBB was committing hundreds of safety-law violations every year and that he had the ability to prevent most of the violations that UBB was committing. Yet he fostered and participated in an understanding that perpetuated UBB’s practice of routine safety violations, in order to produce more coal, avoid the costs of following safety laws, and make more money.
The denials are nothing new, just creative lawyering

Taylor's responsed in a similar vein, when David Hughart, president of a Massey Energy subsidiary, admitted he had conspired with the chief executive officer when he pled guilty to two conspiracy counts before a federal judge in Beckley and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.
Blankenship "did not conspire with anybody to do anything illegal or improper....
To the contrary, Don took every step to make the mines under his responsibility safer....We are not concerned about Mr. Hughart's recollections. People often remember untrue things when they are attempting to reduce a possible prison sentence.
Hughart didn't mention Blankenship by name, but Massey only had one CEO and Taylor links to the news story that includes the denial at his website.

Taylor also    brags on that website that he is "well-known for his creative motions practice" and that he "[o]btained dismissal of all criminal charges against Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), who was accused of sexual assault in a New York City hotel.

Blankenship would rewrite history

Taylor's denials are of  a piece with Blankenship's "documentary," Upper Big Branch, Never Again, claims UBB was caused by a "natural gas inundation," not his safety-law violations.  In July, Blankenship was complaining to Lee Fang about "reg-cecession...a recession caused by excessive regulation.”

As Ken Ward, Jr. pointed out back in 2011, it's hard enough to go after coal companies and their executives.  Can you imagine the pillage in the alternate universe where we do away with such regulations as exist?  I'd prefer a universe where the regulations are strengthened and enforced.  How about you?  Goodwin's prosecution of Blankenship is at least one step in that direction.


52 Books in 52 Weeks: Revival by Stephen King

Robin McCormack's book challenge continues. (Reports are due every Sunday.)

Stephen King, Revival,  Scribner, 416 pages, November 11, 2014, ISBN 9781476770383.


Photo is a screenshot from this video on the Food Network.

The November 11 farmshare from Glade Road Growing is slated to include  sweet potatoes, roasting radish, rutabaga, turnips, fennel, and napa cabbage.  Sally asked for something for folks who don't much like turnips.

I'm guessing some find the taste too sharp when they're raw; roasting will make them taste milder.  You can make them milder yet, if you cook them with veggies with more natural sugar, such as this week's sweet potatoes and/or carrots, onions and beets.  You can even add a bit of honey or sugar and/or dried fruit.

All this brings me to a recipe from the Jewish tradition, tsimmes, which is a sweetened combination of vegetables (or of meat and vegetables), which has been stewed, roasted  or baked.  Joan Nathan has a bunch of great recipes, which inspired mine for this week.


Serves 8

1.  Wash and halve, a sweet potato, roasting radish and  rutabaga.  Wash, and trim turnips and fennel of root end and any greens.  (Reserve the greens for another use.)

2.   Peel and halve 2 onions.  I also like to use 2 tart apples, 4 carrots,  and one beet.

3.  Roast (cut side up, if applicable) for half an hour at 450 degrees F in convection oven or or wrapped in aluminum foil on a cookie sheet in a conventional oven.

4.  Cool enough to handle and remove skin from sweet potatoes, radish, rutabaga and turnips.  Chop all the veggies and apples into large pieces.  Boil 2 cups of water with 2 TB honey or demerara sugar.  Add roasted veggies and apples and return to a boil, then reduce to simmer. Stir in 2 TB of orange juice concentrate and 1 TB of butter or extra virgin olive oil  and cook until softened and the flavors combine.

5.  Serve warm, topped with toasted walnuts.


Or if you like turnips just fine raw, you can make a nice shaved salad of the turnips, fennel, radish, carrots and nappa cabbage.


6th Circuit Upholds Gay Marriage Bans, Reversing Federal Rulings for MI, OH, TN, and KY

Saul Loeb's  photo by accompanied Geoffrey Stone' s 8-3-14 essay in The Daily Beast,  "Justice Kennedy Opened the Door to Same-Sex Marriage, Will He Walk Through Next?: Twenty-nine consecutive judicial decisions in the past year have held bans on gay marriage are unconstitutional. This is nothing short of extraordinary."


Just a month ago, on October 6, the Supreme Court refused to hear appeals from from five states seeking to prohibit gay and lesbian unions.  Now, on November 6, in a 2-1 decision in DeBoer v. Snyder, 6th Circuit Judges Jeffrey Sutton and Martha Cook (both Bush appointees) have upheld gay marriage bans in MI, OH, TN, and KY-- breaking ranks with many courts who have expanded rights since United States v. Windsor, when  the U.S. Supreme Court struck down part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

The link for the opinion is thanks to my favorite SCOTUS journalist, Lyle Denniston, who writes here
Probably the only way that this ruling would not predictably lead to Supreme Court review, it appears, is if there is a request for en banc review in the Sixth Circuit, and that request is granted.

Geoffrey R. Stone, Edward H. Levi distinguished service professor of law for The University of Chicago, believes that this "what Justice Kennedy has been waiting for," observing that Kennedy wrote the opinion, not only in Windsor, but two other  major Supreme Court decisions that opened the door for  gay marriage:
*Romer v. Evans (1996), which held as unconstitutional a Colorado constitutional provision that prohibited the enactment of any law protecting gays, lesbians, and bisexuals against discrimination
*Lawrence v. Texas (2003), which held as unconstitutional a Texas law prohibiting consensual, adult, homosexual intercourse

Sutton had upheld Obamacare, perhaps giving some supporters of equal rights cause for hope that he would support gay marriage.  Mark Joseph Stern, however, called it correctly on August 7, when he wrote for Slate after observing Sutton during the arguments the previous day.
Based on Wednesday’s arguments, marriage advocates have good reason to worry. Unlike Cook, who clearly viewed gay marriage prohibitions as a rational state policy, Sutton seemed to scowl at the prospect of excluding an entire class of people from marriage. But unlike Daughtrey—who fiercely questioned the state’s interest in discriminating against gays at every turn—Sutton appeared exceedingly hesitant to bring gay marriage to America through judicial fiat. 
Sutton's opinion concludes on page 42:
In just eleven years, nineteen States and a conspicuous District, accounting for nearly forty-five percent of the population, have exercised their sovereign powers to expand a definition of marriage that until recently was universally followed going back to the earliest days of human history. That is a difficult timeline to criticize as unworthy of further debate and voting. When the courts do not let the people resolve new social issues like this one, they perpetuate the idea that the heroes in these change events are judges and lawyers. Better in this instance, we think, to allow change through the customary political processes, in which the people, gay and straight alike, become the heroes of their own stories by meeting each other not as adversaries in a court system but as fellow citizens seeking to resolve a new social issue in a fair-minded way.
Judge Martha Craig Daughtrey (a Clinton appointee) dissents, starting off with a quotation from Benjamin Cardozo, The Nature of the Judicial Process (1921) “The great tides and currents which engulf the rest of men do not turn aside in their course to pass the judges by.”  Her introduction is scathing:
The author of the majority opinion has drafted what would make an engrossing TED Talk or, possibly, an introductory lecture in Political Philosophy. But as an appellate court decision, it wholly fails to grapple with the relevant constitutional question in this appeal: whether a state’s constitutional prohibition of same-sex marriage violates equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment. Instead, the majority sets up a false premise—that the question before us is “who should decide?”—and leads us through a largely irrelevant discourse on democracy and federalism. In point of fact, the real issue before us concerns what is at stake in these six cases for the individual plaintiffs and their children, and what should be done about it. Because I reject the majority’s resolution of these questions based on its invocation of vox populi and its reverence for “proceeding with caution” (otherwise known as the “wait and see” approach), I dissent.


Broccoli with Roasted Tetsukabuto Squash in Coconut Sauce.

Photo from Betty Crocker.

The November 3 farm share for Glade Road Growing is slated to include tetsukabuto squash, broccoli, a baby haukarai turnip bunch, bok choy, and dill. 

This is a recipe for broccoli with roasted squash.  Since tetsukabuto is popular in Brazil, I've added a suggestion of that country's cuisine by including homemade coconut milk.  (BTW, broccoli is pricey in Brazil, so collards would be more traditional.)

Serves 6

1.  Cut squash in half.  Scoop out seeds (and reserve to toast).  Roast cut side up in convection or conventional oven at 450 degrees until tender.  Cool enough to peel and chop into cubes.  You will use two cups for this recipe.  If you don't have tetsukabuto, any type of winter squash or pumpkin can be substituted.

You can refrigerate any surplus and serve with steamed bok choy, tempeh and brown rice topped with toasted pecans; with roasted turnips, topped with a sauce made from Greek yogurt and chopped fresh dill;  or  pureed into a soup which includes steamed or roasted turnips, Yukon gold potatoes and celery.

2.  While the squash is roasting, blend together 1 cups of of hot water and 1/2 cup of  unsweetened shredded coconut to make milk.  Refrigerate until ready to use.  (If you want, you can make extra.  It will keep for 3-4 days.  The "cream" may separate on the top.  Just shake or stir before using.)  I use the milk as is, but some folks prefer it to be more like the commercial product, which requires that you pour it through a mesh strainer lined with  several thicknesses of cheesecloth to remove the  remaining bits of coconut.

3. Trim ends off broccoli.  If stems are tough, peel.  Chop stems and keep separate.  Break top into  florets.  Steam stems until just tender and then add florets and continue to steam for about a minute or more until bright green and tender/crisp.

4.  In a serving bowl, combine broccoli and squash and toss with the coconut milk.  Top with dried cranberries (or pomegranate seeds) and pecans.  If you'd like this to be a main dish, substitute 3 cups of cooked black beans and 3 cups of cooked brown rice for the fruit and nuts.  Toss with the broccoli squash and coconut milk and season with salt and fresh ground pepper to taste.  Top instead with chopped cilantro.

BTW, tetsukabuto squash is a hybrid between Cucurbita maxima (which originated in South America from the wild C. maxima ssp. andreana over 4000 years ago) and Cucurbita moschata, whose cultivars (which include butternut and crookneck squash and pumpkins) are generally more tolerant of hot, humid weather and insects.  Tetsukabutos were developed in Japan and introduced to Brazil in 1960.  They are popular in the cuisine of both countries.


52 Books in 52 Weeks: Some Luck by Jane Smiley and Toughs by Edward Falco

Robin McCormack's book challenge continues. (Reports are due every Sunday.)

Some Luck: A novel by Jane Smiley, Knopf, 416 pages, October 7, 2014 (ISBN 978-0307700315)

Edward Falco, Toughs, Unbridled Books, 480 pages, August 12, 2014, (ISBN 978-1-60953-111-9)