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System glitch blamed for health permits issued under former KCHD health officer

The health permits, issued to restaurants and stores in Kanawha County are coming into question after what the Kanawha Charleston Health Department is calling a "glitch" in the system. (WCHS/WVAH)

The health permits, issued to restaurants and stores in Kanawha County are coming into question after what the Kanawha Charleston Health Department is calling a "glitch" in the system.

In March of last year, Dr. Michael Brumage, the health officer at the time, left the department. It was his signature that was signed to the bottom of each permit, but after he left his name continued to appear on each permit.

We obtained a stack of health permits dating back to last July, all signed by Dr. Brumage.

"They're just sitting there issuing permits using a physician's name who doesn't work there, has nothing to do with it. Couldn't possibly approve these permits,” Kanawha County Commission President, Kent Carper said.

Carper said that makes the permits invalid.

"It's obvious that what they were issuing was false. The people there know that this individual is no longer affiliated with the health department, so they're sitting there putting his name on a permit, a health permit that's false.” Carper said.

Public Information Officer for the Health Department, John Law is calling it an internal glitch in the system used to issue permits, a glitch that went unnoticed for 10 months.

"When Dr. Brumage left, his name was changed on most of the permits. It was not changed on this. I think the thing that we need to stress is that the permits are still valid,” Law said.

Law said there is no requirement for permits to be signed by the health officer. He also said the permits could be issued in the name of anyone with valid authority to do health inspections, for example, the environmental services director.

The permits could be corrected by re-issuing them with the appropriate name and signature, but Law said it's not a simple task.

"The analogy would be if you have a debit card, and you have to get a new debit card, and you have to change all those things that your debit card is associated with. We don't want our facilities to go through that,” Law said.

He said the health department is working to get the message to its permitted facilities that the permits are valid.

Carper is critical of the amount of time the department has gone without a full-time health officer, saying in the event of a public health crisis. a health officer must be in place to handle it.

"They pride themselves that they are a certified health department. Well I don't know how much longer they're going to keep their certification up when they don't have someone minding the store,” Carper said.

Law said the department has advertised nationally for the health officer position, and candidates have been interviewed, but he doesn't know what stage those interviews are in.

Since Dr. Brumage left, there has been an interim health officer in place.

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