CHARLESTON, W.Va. - The state Ethics Commission ruled Thursday that state Auditor Glen Gainer should not have appeared in an online Visa advertising campaign and may have violated the state Ethics Act's prohibition against using public office for private gain.
During their regular meeting Thursday morning, commissioners approved an advisory opinion that said state officials cannot appear in videos on a private company's website promoting programs related to their state office.
Gainer sought the advisory opinion after questions were raised about his appearance, and the appearances of four other state agency officials, violated state ethics rules.
The Ethics Commission ruled last August that public officials and employees cannot appear or be referenced in an advertisement for a product, service or business unless there is an "overriding public benefit."
The appearances by Gainer and the other were a part of an online video series promoting Visa's purchasing card program.
Gainer's office manages the program for the state. It has a $432 million contract with Visa to run the program.
Neither Gainer nor the others were compensated for their appearances in the ads, which appeared online during late 2012 through February of this year. Gainer requested the ads be pulled after ethics questions arose.
During the ads, Gainer and officials spoke about how the purchasing card program boosted efficiency and helped save the state money.
Gainer's ad also showed the state Capitol, state flag, Gainer's office and an election campaign button bearing Gainer's name.
In its opinion, the commission said Gainer can appear in videos promoting purchasing card program, so long as it's done on his official website and does not visually or verbally reference Visa.