EDITORIAL: Tennant and Ireland Take a Hit at the Wrong Time in Governor's Race

HNN Staff

Just when the Special Primary Election for Governor of West Virginia seemed like it couldn't become more of a snooze, suddenly not one but two Governor's candidates have taken a hit--and from the same federal report.

Current Secretary of State Natalie Tennant and former Secretary of State Betty Ireland have been included in a newly-released audit from the Office of the Inspector General of the U.S. Elections Assistance Commission.

The audit states, among other things, that a series of errors stretching back to the administrations of Joe Manchin, Ireland, and Tennant caused the loss of over $90,000.

The audit looked mostly at other accounting errors but reporter Ry Rivard at the Charleston Daily Mail has focused on the funding loss, which occurred due to the state not putting the federal monies into a single account with state matching funds.

According to Rivard, the state didn't deposit money into the account until 2007.  Republican Governor's candidate Betty Ireland was the Secretary of State during this time, and the problem had gone on for three years.

Interestingly, the current occupant of the Secretary of State's office, Natalie Tennant, doesn't contest the audit's findings but still maintains that the the state shouldn't have to return the money back to the federal government.

Worse, there are other problems, discrepancies between the Secretary of State's books and the State Treasurer's books when it comes to stated amounts in given funds.  These discrepances occurred during the Ireland and Tennant years, including a difference of $199,000 in September 2008 and a $453,000 difference in August 2009.

According to Rivard, auditors were unable to ascertain what accounts for these differences.   For her part, Tennant chalks it up to "data entry errors" and "differences in accounting procedures."

We'd have to say that those must be some serious differences in accounting procedures to amount to nearly a half million dollars of taxpayers' money.

This audit report's revelations could not come at a worse time for Tennant and Ireland as they vie for their respective parties' nomination for Governor.  The public has nearly zero tolerance for incompetence these days, especially when it comes to taxpayers' money.

Both candidates will now have to spend an inordinate amount of time explaining their side of the story in this mess, when this last month of campaigning requires them to be discussing the issues of the day.

The Ry Rivard report, straight from the hull of that great Charleston daily, the Daily Mail, has just ripped a gaping hole in the campaigns of Tennant and Ireland.  They both deserve a fair hearing. But with only four weeks to go, they may have a hard time convincing others that they did a competent job on their watches as Secretaries of State.