Dave Mistich Published

Legislative Leaders Subpeona WorkForce West Virginia Over Prevailing Wage Methodology


The West Virginia Joint Committee on Government and Finance says WorkForce West Virginia has failed to turn over more than 50 emails and other important documents, including ones that show efforts from outside interests to influence the development of the prevailing wage rate methodology.

Senate President Bill Cole and House Speaker Tim Armstead issued a subpoena to WorkForce West Virginia Acting Executive Director Russell Fry Tuesday. The legislative leaders also issued a letter expressing their disappointment that the agency has failed to fully comply with a recent request for documents related to the development of the new prevailing wage methodology as required by Senate Bill 361.

That law went into effect in April. 

The Joint Committee passed a motion June 10 that called for access documents and communications of every agency or department of the state involved in the investigation and preparation of the methodology of the prevailing wage hourly rates. 

“It’s incredibly troubling to me that this agency has chosen to be less than forthright in fulfilling our legal request for information,” Senate President Cole said in a written statement.

In two separate responses to legislative requests dated June 17 and June 18, WorkForce West Virginia said no documents had been destroyed or were being withheld for privilege, and that the agency has not received communications from private entities seeking to influence the development of the prevailing wage rate methodology.

However, the Joint Committee says they have obtained documents from other sources that show numerous email communications between a representative of the Affiliated Construction Trades Foundation and Jeff Green, the director of WorkForce West Virginia’s research division. The committee said this communication criticizes the use of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data to calculate the prevailing wage rate, as required by state law. 

Lawmakers said in the news release, based on the documents supplied to them by Workforce West Virginia, it appears that at least one of these documents provided by outside labor interests was relied upon in the development of the new prevailing wage methodology.

In a written statement Tuesday, Director of Marketing and Communications for the West Virginia Department of Commerce Chelsea Ruby said WorkForce officials searched email databases for the term “prevailing wage” after receiving the subpoena and turned over thousands of emails and documents in response to lawmakers’ requests. Ruby said WorkForce would conduct another search “to ensure no information was overlooked.”

Ruby maintained WorkForce complied with the statute calling for the wage recalculation and took into account not just the input of labor groups, but also of members of the Legislature, legislative staff and business groups when finalizing the methodology they present to lawmakers in June.