Putnam County Commissioner Ron Foster appears determined to hold on to his seat here despite establishing his residence in Tennessee.
Wvstatewide.com broke the news over the past weekend that Foster, a Republican member of the commission, had established his Tennessee residence on September 7. That’s the date Bedford County, Tennessee officials showed as his official voter registration filing in Shelbyville.
Putnam County Clerk Brian Wood received the notice from Tennessee and removed Foster from the Voter rolls here as of September 7.
Despite the requirement by Bedford officials that Foster prove himself a Tennessee resident before registering to vote there, he has remained on the Putnam Commission.
According to a tax consultant, Foster may be saving as much as $60,000 a year since Tennessee has no income tax for residents while West Virginia does.
Putnam Commissioners are paid bi-monthly with an approximate salary of $46,000. Thus. Foster would have been paid at least three times since establishing residence in Tennessee. That would amount to about $5,700 Putnam taxpayers have paid Foster while he apparently avoids the West Virginia taxes.
Additionally, a check with the payroll clerk at the Putnam courthouse confirmed that Foster receives health insurance coverage through the county.
A Charleston lawyer who has considerable experience in public official conduct said she was surprised Foster “did not just resign. He’s in clear violation of West Virginia Code 6-5-4. He’s serving illegally.”
Another Putnam Commissioner, Andy Skidmore, told wvstatewide.com that he had referred the matter to County Attorney Larry Frye who will “discuss what our next steps will be.”
Frye did not respond to a phoned request for an interview.
The Third Commissioner, Brian Ellis did not respond to an email request for his position on the matter.
Meanwhile, Foster apparently intends to continue in the elected position. He responded to a constituent who asked him about it as follows. “I intend to legally serve out the balance of my term. This guy (the wvstatewide.com reporter) has his facts and ‘law’ confused. It would be my advice that no one should use the so called ‘Charleston attorney’ who is unnamed in the article for their case.”
A second public official lawyer agreed with the first and added, “not only does 6-5-4 apply but probably so does 7-7-1 and 6-6-7.”
County commissioners are specifically elected from certain magisterial districts in a county and no more than one can come from any district.
“One things for sure,” said the first attorney. “Last time I checked, Bedford County, Tennessee was not a Putnam County Magisterial district.”
This is a developing story that will be updated as events warrant.