Conley plans town hall with Gov. Justice

PARKERSBURG — A Wood County man who believes a minority is driving the party confidence votes on Gov. Jim Justice is organizing a town-hall style meeting with the governor.

Roger Conley, a Vienna city councilman who owns Conley Fabrication off West Virginia 14 south of Parkersburg, met with Justice Monday at the Governor’s Mansion in Charleston. The meeting was discussed and the governor was willing, although when the event can be held has yet to be determined, Conley said.

“The sooner the better,” he said.

The venue will be Conley Manufacturing, Conley said. The meeting will be open to everyone and any topic of discussion, including education, of which Conley said the governor was agreeable.

“He’s going to field all questions,” Conley said.

A comment from the governor’s communication office was not immediately available.

Conley said he spoke at length about the needs for the City of Vienna with the governor, including infrastructure and the condition of roads, and also about the recent votes on resolutions of no-confidence in Justice by county Republican Party executive committees. Conley is a former chairman of the Wood County Republican Party.

Much is at stake, as far as Conley is concerned. Business conditions have improved under Justice and while production levels are not the same as years past, the coal, oil and natural gas industries have seen a recovery, he said.

The movement is supported by few people in the party, Conley said.

“This no-confidence thing is very much in the minority,” he said.

Nobody agrees with each other all the time, but the dissension could destroy the Republican Party and the historic gains it has made in West Virginia, Conley said. The GOP, which is the majority in the House and Senate and most statewide offices, was the minority for 80 years, he said.

“(Justice) is in full agreement with what I just said,” Conley said.

Justice was a Republican who switched parties and ran as a Democrat in 2016, then switched parties to Republican while in office. He announced the switch at an event in Huntington that was attended by President Donald Trump.

While the Republican Executive Committee in Kanawha County earlier this month passed a vote of no confidence, the executive committee in Mineral County approved a vote of confidence five days later. The Harrison County Republican Party Executive Committee passed a no-confidence vote on Monday and the Fayette County party discussed a no-confidence vote, but took no action, according to media reports.

West Virginia MetroNews reported Tuesday a federal grand jury subpoenaed records from the state Department of Commerce about The Greenbrier, owned by Justice, The Greenbrier Classic PGA golf tournament and the resort’s charitable organization and any communications from anyone acting on the organizations’ behalf, including the governor. The subpoena was obtained through a Freedom of Information request.

Committeemen in June in Wood County passed a resolution seeking Justice’s impeachment. It was later rescinded, Treasurer Gladys Lemley said.

The difference was more information was available in July, she said.

“Some of us didn’t have the whole story,” Lemley said.

Lemley said she agrees with Conley. She doesn’t want to speak ill of other Republicans, but differences should be settled at the polls, she said, adding the party needs unity.

“A house divided upon itself cannot stand,” Lemley said.

Melody Potter, chairman of the West Virginia Republican Party, has seen the opposite of division. She believes the votes and efforts to arrange such votes have unified Republicans toward the 2020 elections and re-electing Trump.

“This movement has nothing but galvanized Republicans,” Potter said.

Conley has done a “great job trying to upgrade city government in Vienna and serving this community,” Rob Cornelius, chairman of the Wood County Republican Party, said.

“I’m just grateful to Roger for making the invitation to the governor to discuss these issues and you sincerely hope the governor takes him up on the invite,” Cornelius said. “Hopefully folks have the chance to ask difficult questions and get straight answers.”

However, it’s difficult to have confidence in a governor who refuses to regularly attend work “and disregards the bulk of the GOP platform so brazenly,” Cornelius said.

“Jim Justice thus far doesn’t have the back of our conservative team on education reform, right to work and legal reforms,” he said. “And it’s sadder still that despite borrowing billions and raising taxes by hundreds of millions, he can’t figure out how to do anything about the roads.

“In the great democracy we have, it’s wonderful to see county Republican parties speak out strongly to defend our righteous values,” Cornelius said. “I salute those who have made their feelings known in any direction.”