2015-11 Public Officials
Public officials’ official websites may include an official’s photograph on home page or biographical pages or sections, but multiple photos should not be used. If official played a role in selecting, editing or approving content of educational materials which were printed with private funds, and disseminated materials to public, multiple photographs of officials should not be used. Items classified as trinkets under W. Va. Code § 6B-2-5c, and banners and table skirts containing an official’s name and photo, may not be used even if they were purchased before effective date of statute.
2015-13 County Commissioner
Public officials may recognize businesses and individuals for contributions to economic development and charitable purposes by attending “ribbon cuttings” and through resolutions or proclamations. Providing testimonials or favorable reviews of a business’s products or services is not permissible. Official may post portrait photograph and of attendance at public events on official social media. AO does not set a limit on the number of photographs of a public official that may appear on an agency’s social media. Ethics Act does not restrict use of personal social media. Public officials may not use public resources to manage or post on their personal or campaign social media.
2015-19 Public Official
Prohibition against public officials using names/likenesses for purposes of advertising does not prohibit use of name on official letterhead, envelopes and business cards that are used in the performance of usual duties. Officials may not use public funds or public resources to offer or distribute trinkets or items paid for with private funds.
2015-20 County Assessor
Letterhead, envelopes, business cards, Personal Property Form, door hangers, form letter and website do not have primary intent or effect of promoting a public official and are therefore not prohibited “advertising.”
2015-23 Elected State Official
May host telephonic town hall meetings, but the official’s name may not be used in the recorded message played in conjunction with the meeting. The official may not conduct telephonic town hall meetings in the 60 days immediately before a primary, special or general election. These limitations do not apply to telephonic town hall meetings conducted with campaign funds.
2016-10 County Clerk
- May authorize private organizations to use her name and public job title when recognizing her for personal donations she makes to charitable events.
- Public officials/employees may not use public job titles if employed by a charitable organization on whose behalf they are soliciting.
- Public officials/employees may not solicit gifts for a charitable purpose if there is a direct pecuniary benefit to an immediate family.
2016-11 State Legislator
May purchase business cards with private funds that replicate his State-issued business card on one side and display his campaign information on the other provided that both sides of the business cards state that they are paid for by the Legislator.
The Opinion cautions that the Ethics Act prohibits any use of state resources, including the Legislator’s state telephone and email address, in furtherance of his personal re-election campaign.
2017-16 Director of a State Agency
A state agency’s yearly publication is “educational material” under the Act’s name and likeness provisions. The publication is not a “report required to be issued by law” because it is disseminated to the public rather than submitted to a reporting authority. Therefore, the names and photographs of public officials, including the Governor and the agency’s Director, Commissioners and Section Chiefs, may not appear in the publication. 2019-02 A State Agency Manager
A State Agency may use public funds to print personal contact information on elected officials’ business cards because communicating with constituents is part of the usual and customary duties associated with the office and providing the personal contact information makes officials more accessible, which serves a public purpose. The use of personal contact information does not have the primary purpose of promoting the elected officials, so the use of public funds to print business cards with personal contact information does not violate the name or likeness provision’s prohibition on advertising.
The Ethics Act does not prohibit a town employee from bringing a cup that contains a campaign slogan to work at Town Hall. The employee may not display the cup on her desk in a manner that makes the campaign slogan visible to the public because it could constitute the use of public resources to advertise a political party.