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Mingo Commissioner Accuses Opponent Of Giving Rides, $50 Checks and Steak Dinners To Early Voters

Reported: May. 12, 2014 6:09 PM EDT
Updated: May. 12, 2014 7:39 PM EDT
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Political mudslinging continuing in Mingo County on the eve of what some of calling the most important election in recent memory for the corruption plagued county.

In a letter to Secretary of State Natalie Tennant, Greg "Hootie" Smith accuses his opponent, former sheriff Lonnie Hannah, of buying an illegal billboard for a magistrate candidate, renting a van to bring in early voters, and giving them $50 checks, or a free steak dinner.

Hannah, in a statement through his attorney, denies the allegations, and accuses of Smith of breaking the law.

Tuesday's election is the first since an ongoing federal investigation brought down four major office holders.

"My opponent has campainged this whole election that he is a candidate to end political corruption, when in fact it just looks like he wants to write a whole new chapter," Smith said in an interview with Eyewitness News on Sunday.

Smith provided the letter he says he sent Tennant's office on May 9th.

In it, he says Hannah illegally bought a billboard for $1,031.25 for magistrate candidate Jim Harvey.

Smith also makes claims Hannah and his "political teammates" have rented a van and have been "hauling individuals all week to early voting." He also attached a picture of the van he believes was being used to do so.

"My opponent and his van drivers are providing the individuals riding the van with $50 checks from his campaign committee or, in the alternative, driving said individuals to my opponent's family owned restaurant for a steak dinner after they vote," the letter states.

"These tactics that my opponent and his teammates are doing is just despicable," Smith said.

Hannah denies the allegations and in a statement says, "The May 9, 2014 letter to Natalie Tennant is a desperate attempt from Team Mingo's Treasurer, Greg "Hootie" Smith to maintain power and control over the people of Mingo County. Smith's complaint is not under oath as required by law, and contains false allegations."

"I never gave candidate Harvey a campaign contribution nor have I violated any elections laws regarding campaign workers. However, by disclosing his false complaint to the press, Smith has committed a misdemeanor offense and upon conviction thereof, shall be fined not less than $1,000, nor more than $5,000, and shall be confined in jail not less than six months nor more than one year. West Virginia CodeĀ§3-8-8(3)(i)." Hannah says.

"I trust the citizens of Mingo County will get rid of the last remnants of Team Mingo by voting its treasurer, Greg "Hootie" Smith, out of office."

Tennant says her office can not publicly discuss the details of individual election law violation investigations.

"We look into every allegation every complaint, any question that comes into this office because I do not tolerate anyone who would try to chip away at our democracy, our election process," she said.

Hannah's attorney says he has not been served with any type of complaint.

Both Smith and Hannah are democrats, and with no republican on the ballot, the winner will serve on the Mingo County Commission.

There is also a commission seat on the ballot to fill the remainder of David Baisden's unexpired term.



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