BOE Director Resigns after Embezzlement Arrest

One week prior to the election, the Washington County Board of Elections Director has resigned following her arrest on embezzlement charges.

Tara Hupp of State Route 26 initially denied any wrongdoing, but then admitted she had taken about $40,000 in Marietta Tiger Boosters Club funds over several years. According to the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, she did this by making checks out to cash, endorsing them, and placing the funds in her personal account. Hupp was treasurer of the club for the past ten years.

Following her arrest, Hupp resigned her post as director of the Washington County Board of Elections. It is expected that her position will remain open until after the election.

Deputy Director Peggy Byers explained that the job must be advertised and interviews must be conducted before the position can be filled.

“I would imagine they want to be speedy about it, but it’s going to take some time,” Byers said.

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Illegal Farm Worker Arrested for Menacing

A farm worker was arrested Tuesday in Washington County for menacing after threatening his former employer with a knife.

Gale Hartline, owner of Hartline Valley Farms, reported that a terminated and intoxicated employee stated that he would kill him while holding a knife. 43 year old Rolando Garcia-Perez stated he had consumed a bottle of Tequila but denied having a knife. During the course of the investigation, authorities discovered that Garcia-Perez was one of several illegal immigrants working at Hartline Valley Farms.

Deputies contacted Immigration and Customs Enforcement who requested Garcia-Perez remain at the Washington County Jail pending their investigation, which could result in deportation.

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Counselor Convicted for Embezzlement Speaker at Children’s Justice Conference

by Lawrence J. Smith, Special Contributor to RCNN

CHARLESTON – A Parkersburg counselor previously convicted for embezzlement is among the speakers at a conference co-sponsored by the West Virginia State Police focused on curbing trauma in children who witness crime.

Yesterday, the Handle with Care Conference began at the Charleston Civic Center.  The purpose of the conference, according to a brochure, is to provide attendees the resources to “focus on a trauma-informed response to child maltreatment and children’s exposure to violence.”

The three-day event features “[s]essions,,, includ[ing] topics on the investigation, prosecution, and treatment of childhood treatment and family violence.”  Along with the State Police, it is co-sponsored by the West Virginia Center for Children’s Justice, a unit of WVSP, the state Department of Health and Human Resources and its Bureau for Health and Health Facilities, the state Department of Education and the West Virginia Disabilities Council.

Speaking at one of the breakout sessions late Wednesday is Felicia Lynn Davis Bush, the founder and executive director of Harmony Mental Health Inc., a non-profit mental health and social services management agency, The topic of the session is “The Therapist is IN,“

According the brochure, Bush, 53, along with Megan Lyon, a former Kanawha County elementary school teacher who now runs her own wellness company, will instruct attendees about “clarify[ing] the roles of school counselor (social worker, psychologist) and the mental health practitioner as they work together to provide trauma-informed therapeutic services in a school based setting.”

Prior to going into private practice, Bush’s biography on the brochure says she counseled, and educated people about domestic violence.  This included a stint at the Kanawha County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office with its victim services center.

Also, she is the vice-chairwoman of the West Virginians Against Violence Committee, an ad-hoc group that makes recommendations to the governor for programs funded by the Violence Against Women, and Victims of Crime acts.

Before beginning her advocacy work, Bush was convicted in 2000 for embezzlement.  According to court records, while working as his office manager, Bush stole over $150,000 from Dr. Mark A.Delli-Gatti, a Parkersburg dentist.

For her crime, she was ordered to serve an indeterminate 2-10 year sentence, and placed in the Pruntytown Correctional Center in Taylor County.  Over the objection of Dr. Delli-Getti, records show Bush was released on parole after serving the initial two years.

When questioned about Bush’s inclusion in the conference as a convicted felon, Andrea Darr, WVCCJ’s director, was caught-off guard.  After saying that conference speakers are selected by WVCCJ’s planning committee from people “either we know personally or are referred to us, Darr deferred any further comment about Bush until she could inquire about her prior conviction.

She did not return a follow-up phone call left with her Wednesday morning.

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Source: EWG

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Brockovich’s Chromium-6 Detected in MOV Water Supplies

It has been a couple of decades since Erin Brockovich began a war against industrial polluters who let chromium-6 seep into a Hinkley, California water system poisoning consumers who developed cancer and other exposure-related diseases.

This week the Environmental Working Group released a detailed report along with the claim that the substance made familiar by Brockovich can be found in the drinking water of more than 200 million Americans – some at levels exceeding public health standards. Using federal data the EWG mapped out locations in every state that detected the carcinogen in water samples taken in the years 2013 – 2015. Overall, EWG reported that 75 percent of samples examined were contaminated with some level of chromium-6.

Chromium-6 is an unregulated substance and sampling is not required by federal or state law. It is not a required part of a water provider’s annual consumer water quality report.  Therefore, like C8 or PFOA (a contaminant made infamous by DuPont’s poisoning of Mid-Ohio Valley water supplies) testing for the substance happens only very intentionally. In this case, the EPA was trying to find out how widespread the contamination has become.

According to USEPA chromium is an odorless and tasteless metallic element found naturally in rocks, plants, soil, dust and animals.   While Chromium-3 is an essential dietary element found in vegetables, fruits, meats and grains, Chromium-6 or hexavalent chromium occurs from the erosion of natural deposits and may also be produced by industrial processes.

“There are demonstrated instances of chromium being released to the environment by leakage, poor storage, or inadequate industrial waste disposal practices,” said USEPA.

The Safe Drinking Water Act requires the federal agency to determine the level of contaminants in drinking water at which no harmful health effects are likely. These are called maximum contaminant level goals or MCLGs.

So, while the state of California has a health goal of 0.02 parts per billion, the legal limit set by the federal government is 10 parts per billion – or 500 times the California goal.  When the agency last reviewed the health risks associated with chromium exposure in March 2010, it determined that it was not appropriate to revise the national drinking water regulation until further assessment could be performed. The maximum contaminant level for chromium was established in 1991 based on data indicating that continued exposure could result in allergic dermatitis. The National Toxicology Program subsequently found chromium-6 to be a human carcinogen if ingested or inhaled.  Further human studies worldwide have linked chromium-6 to lung cancer, liver damage, reproductive problems, and developmental harm. The harm is greater for certain segments of the population including infants and children, people who take antacids and people with poorly functioning livers.

Before EPA makes any adjustments to the regulation, the agency will issue its final human health assessment for chromium-6. The final assessment will be considered in determining if a more stringent drinking water regulation is to be put into place.

In the Mid-Ohio Valley, it may seem like a double-whammy as many of the noted water systems are still coping with C8 exposure as the result of Teflon (and other) production at DuPont Washington Works.

Here is how our region stacks up by county.  Not every water system was included in the sampling project. Results are specific to water systems that were included in the exploratory federal sampling program.

In Washington County, chromium-6 was detected in the City of Marietta water.  Of four samples, all four detected the chemical in amounts ranging from 0.14 parts per billion to 0.18 parts per billion – still well below the federal limit but many times higher than California’s health goal.

The Little Hocking Water Association had only one detect out of four samples, which doesn’t indicate consistent contamination and could indicate an error or anomaly.

In Athens County, of eight samples taken none indicated the presence of chromium-6.

In Meigs County, of four samples drawn in the Tuppers Plains/Chester Water District, two of them indicated the presence of chromium-6 at 0.034 and 0.033 parts per billion.

In Mason County, West Virginia, all four samples indicated the presence of chromium-6 at 0.11 to 0.14 parts per billion.

In Wood County, West Virginia, of four samples drawn from the Parkersburg Utility Board, all four had levels of chromium-6 ranging from 0.51 to 0.71 parts per billion – the highest readings in the region and well below the federal limit but many times higher than California’s progressive health goal.

In Vienna, of twelve samples ten had levels of chromium-6 ranging from 0.031 to 0.18 parts per billion. There was no data available for surrounding West Virginia counties.

It is not possible to boil away the contaminant and most household systems will not filter chromium-6 out of the water. There is one pitcher on the market that claims to filter chromium-6, but it employs ion exchange which is not known to be terribly efficient. The most effective systems are based on reverse osmosis – a much more costly solution but one that removes many more contaminants than chromium-6. (Reverse osmosis is also the most effective means of removing C8 or PFOA from household drinking water.)

The American Chemistry Council calls the EWG report “alarmist” and claims the levels of chromium-6 in the water are too minute to be significant.

Brockovich is urging concerned individuals to sign an EWG petition demanding the government take action and set a lower federal regulation.

“Twenty years is far too long,” Brockovich said Wednesday. “Chromium-6 is a chronic industrial pollutant and industry is holding regulation hostage with threats, lies, corrupt science and lots of cash. Chromium-6 kills in small doses.”

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KKK Recruiting for Drug War

The Southern Ohio Knights are looking to recruit new members in a crusade to take back the streets from the rampant drug epidemic.

The local branch of the Ku Klux Klan blanketed some Washington County neighborhoods with flyers last weekend directing interested parties to contact them for more information via text. An educational packet is provided to those who request it.  In it the Klan explains their purpose and some of their practices.

“We are here to help and encourage you. Addiction is a disease and it’s destroying families and communities alike. The future of our race and nation depend on it,” the Knights state. “We here at the Southern Ohio Knights believe that together we can overcome any addiction by ridding our streets of these low life poison pushers and supporting our brothers and sisters in their recovery.”

“We are not a hate group we are separatist not racist. We believe all races should want to keep their race pure,” organizers said. “This is a Christian-based group. God bless all.”

The Klan provided information about their ritual ceremony.

“Perhaps the biggest misconception the alien world has about the Ku Klux Klan is the belief that we burn crosses,” said the Klan. “The Christian cross is a sacred symbol to the members of this order and is treated with the highest reverence. A lighted cross is a symbol of Christ’s light and the ability of that light to dispel the darkness of the world around it.”

“The fiery cross is not intended to intimidate or to defile. It is intended to motivate and inspire. It is the strength of our organization, a symbol of our unwavering dedication to something greater than us.”

While painting a sympathetic view of a Klansman, the provided literature also includes two pages of Bible scriptures interpreted to support their divisive views on Interracial Marriage and Homosexuality.

Finally, the Southern Ohio Knights included an application beginning with “Do you believe the White Race is the true chosen people of God?” and ending in a pledge “Do you swear that you will forever hold true to the preservation of the White Race.

The Southern Ohio Knights can be reached by text at 740-589-0891 or by mail at PO Box 846, Belpre, Ohio 45714.

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Petition Urges Elimination of WV Vehicle Inspection

A petition initiated by a local man is collecting signatures in an effort to eliminate the West Virginia motor vehicle inspection.

The petition on MoveOn.org declares that since Ohio does not require vehicle inspections, West Virginia drivers should not bear an extra burden for traveling the same roadways.

National statistics indicate that 12 to 13 percent of vehicle accidents are related to mechanical vehicle failure.

Corey Gilchrist of Parkersburg said state and local law enforcement should be focused on the real problems causing accidents such as drugs, alcohol, and distracted driving.

Gilchrist also says licensed auto shops are too busy with paying work to do inspections. He claims it can be difficult for West Virginians with a full time job to make it to an inspection station to comply with the state law.

“Too many West Virginians cannot afford to keep their older vehicles on the road when new car standards are required by inspections,” Gilchrist said.

The petition is close to meeting its goal – at which time it will be delivered to Governor Earl Ray Tomblin, the West Virginia State House and the West Virginia State Senate.

Interested parties can view or sign the petition at:
http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/eliminate-wv-motor-vehicle

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New Biz Offers Guided North Bend Adventuring

Guided rock climbing is now available at North Bend State Park. This spring a professional mountain climber opened an adventure business in Ritchie County that offers people of all ages an opportunity to experience guided climbing. North Bend State Park offers the setting and John Starkweather leads expeditions on the rock walls rising above the North Fork of the Hughes River.

No experience is needed and all equipment is provided by North Bend Climbing Guides. A number of climbing and rappelling packages are available for families, groups, and campers including an introduction to climbing. Trips for experienced climbers are also available.

For more information about North Bend Climbing Guides, visit the website at www.northbendclimbingguides.com or call 304-916-7623.

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Children’s Future the Topic of Wood Co Candidate Forum

A community-planned candidate forum is slated for September 29 and the topic will be the Commitment to Our Children, Our Future.

This particular forum will focus on family and quality of life issues like the opioid crisis, needle exchange, improving West Virginia’s community health ratings and protecting Medicaid expansion.

Wood County Commissioner David Blair Couch will moderate the discussion. Participants will also have an opportunity to register to vote.

The community forum will convene Thursday, September 29 at 5 pm in the Judge Black Courthouse Annex.

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Marietta Police Officer Charged

A Marietta police officer is charged with a first degree misdemeanor following a report of telephone harassment earlier this summer.

A hearing in the matter regarding the actions of Officer Robert Ellenwood will be held on August 12. Washington County Sheriff’s Captain Troy Hawkins was responsible for the internal investigation leading to the misdemeanor charge filed on June 27.

Hawkins would not comment on the case, but he did confirm that this is the second time this year Ellenwood’s actions have come under internal scrutiny.

This spring Ellenwood was found to be engaging in ongoing texting conversations with the underage victim of a sex crime whose case he was investigating. Test messages included inexplicable personal chit-chat with the underage girl and evidenced that Ellenwood was driving by the girls’ home, school and place of work on a daily basis for weeks – from the beginning of March to the end of April.

In more than six hundred text messages exchanged between the two, Ellenwood encourages the victim to go to church, listen to KLOVE, and “use good judgement”. He also calls her “cupcake” and talks about spanking her.

When Marietta Police Chief Rodney Hupp learned about the text messages, he confronted Ellenwood about the situation and sent the relevant information to the sheriff’s office for internal investigation. Hupp said it was determined that there was nothing criminal in nature about the text messages.

Ellenwood was asked for comment, but declined to speak to RCNN.

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