CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WCHS/WVAH) — When you are in public office, in many ways your life is an open book. You have to publicly file campaign reports and ethics paperwork.
We recently obtained documents which showed a discrepancy in the submissions of a West Virginia state senator.
Democratic Senator John Unger from Berkeley County has served in the upper chamber for 20 years. The former majority leader is on both of the powerful education and finance committees.
In December, 2016 he applied with the secretary of state's office to create a non-profit organization. In 2017, non-profit status was granted. This year, GRaCE, which stands for Greater Recovery and Community Empowerment, became active.
Unger's organization helps provide counselors to fight West Virginia's opioid epidemic all across the state. Since the end of the 2018 legislative session in March, GRaCE has been given more than $84,000 in public money, including $63,000 from the department of education. However, Unger's West Virginia Ethics Commission Financial Disclosure Forms from the past two years did not reflect his involvement with the non-profit organization. That part on the form was blank.
We contacted Senator Unger, who said the omission on the form was a mistake and an oversight, which he corrected the next day after we let him know about the problem.
"Absolutely, transparency is essential," Unger said. "And I think that as we see what's happening here in Charleston, there needs to be more transparency. And to have an active media that's out there looking, making sure, keeping people honest and crossing the t's and dotting the i's I think is critically important. So, I appreciate that."
Senator Unger says that he does not received a salary from the non-profit, however his expenses are reimbursed. He says the Ethics Commission told him with the correction and now updated form he faces no sanctions for the error.