The West Virginia Ethics Commission approved a conciliation agreement on Thursday with former West Liberty University President Robin Capehart.
During the meeting, Capehart acknowledged he “solicited private business” from a former part-time worker, when he asked her if she would be interested in serving as executive producer on a movie in which he was an investor.
Following, the commission dropped all 13 of the remaining charges against Capehart. He agreed to pay a fine of $5,000 and costs of $5,000.One of Capehart’s attorneys, Greg McDermott, said Capehart did not knowingly and intentionally use his office for private gain. “I do believe that if President Capehart knew that trying to help a part-time associated and friend become involved in a project in her area of expertise was a violation of the ethics act, he wouldn’t have done it,” he said.
“The Board of Governors was aware of his involvement and even sent a letter to the Ethics Commission praising the President for the contribution the movie made to the community,” McDermott continued.
Co-Counsel, Ron Johnson, added Capehart’s actions did not cost West Liberty University a single penny, nor used any state facilities without full reimbursement. “Also, President Capehart did not in any manner coerce the employee to become involved. In fact, she thought it was a great opportunity,” Johnson said.
McDermott said they had reservations of the Commission’s interpretation of the statute. He said Capehart felt it was time to get the matter behind him.
Capehart also released a statement Thursday, saying, “There was a combination of reasons we decided to accept the agreement. First, this matter was extremely stressful on my family. The Ethics Commission has been dragging this matter on for over three years, despite our numerous requests for a hearing.”
“Second, I have little or no faith in the ability of the Ethics Commission to give me a fair hearing. In three years, not one person from the Ethics Commission ever contacted me. The Ethics Commission ignored the statute and process on numerous occasions during the course of this action. Third, it costs a lot to defend even frivolous charges,” Capehart said.
He concluded, “I truly regret that this matter has been such a distraction from the great strides West Liberty University has made over the last eight years.”
He continues to serve as a special legislative liaison to the West Liberty University Board of Governors.