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Crooked officials are far too common

The overwhelming majority of public officials in West Virginia are good, honest men and women trying to do their best for those they serve.

Still, bad apples seem to pop up with alarming frequency. One surfaced last week, when a former Mineral County chief deputy circuit clerk pleaded guilty to stealing as much as $87,000 in public money during a three-year period. The man, Gary Duane Feaster, blamed addictions to alcohol and gambling.

Shrewd operators sometimes can rob taxpayers blind for years without being caught. Often, it is only when an outsider looks at financial records that wrongdoing is spotted. In most such cases, state Auditor J.B. McCuskey’s office is the cavalry riding to the rescue, usually with help from local law enforcement agencies.

McCuskey’s fraud unit has had notable success in catching crooked officials. Still, it may be worth state legislators’ attention to ask whether his office could use a few more dollars for the task in next year’s budget. Clearly, there is plenty of work for the fraud unit to do.

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