- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Recent editorials from West Virginia newspapers:

Nov. 4

The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia, on AEP services:

The Public Service Commission of West Virginia has set two dates for public hearings on a proposed American Electric Power rate increase that would, if approved, raise power bills significantly.

AEP serves almost 500,000 people in 23 counties, including Fayette, Greenbrier, Mercer, Monroe, Nicholas, Raleigh, Summers and Wyoming.

On average, customers who use an average of 1,000 kilowatt-hours pay a power bill of about $94 per month. With the rate increase, they would see their power bill go up to $115.

It is a significant increase, especially for retirees and other households that may be on fixed incomes.

AEP says it needs the additional money to recover costs from dealing with the derecho and Hurricane Sandy, both in 2012.

Utilities of course are not the same as most businesses. If a local business decides to raise rates for its products and services, consumers have the option of not buying those products or buying them from a competitor who has lower prices.

There really is no second option when it comes to purchasing electricity to run and heat our homes and businesses.

Which is why it is important for customers of AEP to make their voices heard on the proposed rate hike.

Last week AEP posted net income of $493 million in the third quarter that ended Sept. 30, which was an increase of about 13 percent. Income for the year was reported as $1.443 billion, or about an increase of 27 percent.

We do have to question why, given that AEP services such a broad area of West Virginia, is the PSC holding public hearings at just two sites? For many utility customers in the 23-county area, this will certainly be an inconvenience if they want their voices heard.

For those concerned enough to make the trek to Princeton or Charleston, it’s a chance to let the PSC know what you think about the financial impact of the rate hike on family finances.




Nov. 5

Charleston (W.Va.) Daily Mail on Mark Plant’s ousting:

Putting an end to a months-long legal battle, Kanawha County Prosecutor Mark Plants announced Monday he would not appeal a three-judge panel’s decision to remove him from office.

Plants had until Friday, Nov. 14, to appeal the decision. He now must vacate his office by Nov. 13.

The ouster stems from allegations of domestic abuse and violating a protective order. Misdemeanor charges are still pending, but Kanawha Circuit Judge Duke Bloom in April decided to bar Plants’ office from prosecuting domestic battery cases involving children.

That forced the Kanawha County Commission to hire two special prosecutors - one to handle the prosecutor office’s domestic abuse caseload, and another to handle charges against Plants - each of which cost taxpayers extra.

Claiming the mounting costs, county commissioners pushed for Plants’ removal from office. It is more than a little disturbing to see an elected official pushed from office by other elected officials based on allegations that remain unproven in court.

Yes, the special prosecutors cost money, but no one suggested due process is cheap. Preferably, Plants could have operated under a presumption of innocence until the charges were resolved.

Yet, he is to be commended for stepping aside and avoiding a further lengthy, distracting and costly legal battle.




Nov. 3

Herald-Dispatch, Huntington, West Virginia, on jail assault case:

A decision in March by the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals in a case involving the alleged repeated sexual assault of a regional jail inmate by a correctional officer brought plenty of criticism to the court - so much that it agreed to reconsider its ruling.

On Friday, the court ruled that it decided correctly the first time, and thus repeated the same ruling that the state’s Regional Jail Authority could not be held liable in a case involving the alleged rapes. Thus, the jail authority is removed as a defendant in the lawsuit, although the officer involved remains a defendant.

The March ruling was heavily criticized by various groups, including the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Organization for Women and the state division of the National Association of Social Workers. The one dissenting justice in the case, Chief Justice Robyn Davis, said the court missed a “golden opportunity … to correct a grave injustice done to the victim and to our law on governmental immunity.”

However, the majority court opinion, written by Justice Margaret Workman, insisted the court takes the issue of sexual assaults in prison seriously, but that the court was “constrained by the faithful application of the law.”

The court’s opinion reasoned that the jail authority would be liable only if the employee in question acted within the scope of his duties. There’s no question that sexually assaulting an inmate was not part of the officer’s duties. “Even the most well-understood prohibitions are insufficient to prevent bad actors intent on acting for their own purposes from doing so,” Workman wrote in the opinion.

The issue in the case, Workman wrote, was not what the correctional officer did, but what the Regional Jail Authority might have failed to do.

That’s the question that seems worth exploring further; however, with the jail authority removed as a defendant, that’s not likely to happen.

Perhaps a more well-reasoned and comprehensive case would have yielded a different ruling from the court. But West Virginia lawmakers may want to review the state’s laws on government immunity. The propensity might be to continue to protect government agencies and officials, but the purpose should be to hold government agencies accountable for allowing no harm within its facilities.



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