Workforce WV W.Va. Commerce Secretary Answers Questions About Expenses And Being Accountable February 27, 2013
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For more than two years, Claudia George oversaw Workforce West Virginia field offices all over the state. She was essentially doing the work of two people. And in the process, she collected more than 70-thousand dollars in food, transportation and lodging expenses.
West Virginia Secretary of Commerce Keith Burdette says George earned every penny.
"We allowed her to fill two jobs, in effect, for almost two years, saving us a lot of money," Burdette said. "She saved us $60,000 plus in salary and didn't give her a raise to do it because we kept thinking we were going to add more people. We would add a second person."
Previously, a department spokesperson had outlined why George's expenses weren't out of line. However, George worked in the position on a temporary basis for more than two years before being given the post permanently. If that decision had been made earlier her salary would have gone up but her expenses would have gone down.
"If there is any hindsight on this, it is that we probably should have promoted her for her work," Burdette said. "It probably wouldn't have changed her travel too much but we should have recognized what she was doing for us."
Stories involving government spending are about much more than just some numbers on a page. It's about why that decision was made and whether it was the best use of resources. We wanted to talk with Workforce West Virginia Director Russell Fry about this situation but he refused. So that's why we went up the food chain. It's not about bullying, intimidation, being rude or disrespectful. It's about asking legitimate questions concerning government spending. After all, it's your money.
"Claudia should have been advanced and that situation clarified," Burdette said. "But under any condition she was still saving the state of West Virginia money. I think that's all it is. I choose to believe that. I've talked to Russ numerous times, he's always forthcoming. But he's also a gentleman that takes this very personally, his work, and I think, how can I say it? You make him nervous."
Burdette says both Fry and George are assets to the state and should be commended for their efforts.
"Over the course of the last three years the director has been under a lot of pressure to make cuts," Burdette said. "He's cut almost a million four out of his personnel line. He's cut 25 percent out of his travel line. And in this particular case he was trying to better manage scarce resources."
Burdette says his department will look more closely at personnel decisions to see if additional hirings, transfers or promotions can make it more efficient and cost-effective.
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