CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Top officials aren't saying much about a surveillance device allegedly found in the ceiling of an administrator's office at the West Virginia Regional Jail and Correctional Facility Authority, lawmakers learned Monday.
Co-Chair David Perry of a House-Senate oversight committee said that John Lopez, the agency's operations chief, is alleging that he discovered the device in his office earlier this year. Lopez did not respond to a request for comment left Monday at the agency.
At Monday's legislative interim meeting, Perry also presented a picture of a camera-like device as well as what he said was a message to Lopez from the FBI, in response to an apparent complaint prompted by the find.
But both agency Executive Director Joe DeLong and his boss, Military Affairs and Public Safety Secretary Joe Thornton, told the committee that they were unaware of any investigation inside or outside the agency resulting from that discovery.
DeLong and Thornton also said that what they know of the discovery comes not from Lopez, but instead from earlier media reports after the allegations surfaced over the summer.
"Do I have firsthand knowledge; was I there when he removed it? No," DeLong said. "Was it brought to me as the director, or presented to me as the director and told, 'Hey I've found this in my office. What's going on? Do you know why? What's happened?' No, I didn't have a chance to respond to that because I didn't find out about it until after the fact."
DeLong added that he supports his staff and so believes Lopez's account.
Each official declined to say whether they knew who put the device there, or why, saying that they do not comment generally on personnel matters. But both said that employing a surveillance device in a public building can be justified.
"I think it depends on the circumstance, sir," Thornton told Perry, D-Fayette. "I think investigations are done for any number of reasons."
Thornton added that any legal device could only record video, and not audio without a court order.