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Ethics commission taps new director

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A former Kanawha County assistant prosecutor who was fired earlier this month has landed on her feet at the state Capitol.

Maryclaire Akers was hired as the attorney for the state Ethics Commission.

Akers joins Joan Parker, who was unanimously selected by the commission Thursday to become the executive director.

Parker, who follows longtime director Theresa Kirk, had been general counsel for the commission. Akers will fill the general counsel position.

Parker will be paid $85,000 in the new role, and Akers will make $81,000. Kirk's last day is March 8, and Parker will take over on March 11.

Akers begins her new job March 18.

Akers most recently served as an assistant prosecutor in Kanawha County and took the lead on some high-profile cases.

Many in the law enforcement community reacted with shock and skepticism after Kanawha County Prosecutor Mark Plants fired her earlier this month.

Akers said she is looking forward to working for the commission.

"I'm not really a stranger to high-profile positions," she said. "I'm super excited about getting back to serving the public. It's something new, and I think it's going to be a really great opportunity."

Akers said she would focus her efforts on educating the public about the ethics commission and the state's ethics regulations.

"I think people generally want to follow the rules. The best way to stay out of trouble is to talk to us first and see what our opinion is," she said. "We would like to help people before they have to deal with us in a different way."

Akers said while the commission would prefer to help government officials and agencies stay out of trouble, she would not be afraid to take legal action against individuals and organizations that violate ethics laws.

Kirk said the respect and experience Akers has gained from working with the community would help in her new position.

"She obviously has extensive prosecutorial experience and is highly respected in the law enforcement community," Kirk said.

Kirk is returning to the law firm of Puller, Fowler and Flanagan, where she worked for nine years before joining the commission.

"I really enjoyed my tenure. I've worked with great commissioners; it's been great working with the public officials across the state of West Virginia," Kirk said. "I'm a West Virginia native, and it's been great traveling the state and meeting different people."

When Kirk took the head job at the commission four years ago, Parker moved in to the counsel role.

Since then, Parker has performed admirably in her role, Kirk said. She's more than ready to take on the new challenge.

"She has strong academic credentials and common sense. I think she'll do a great job," Kirk said.

Parker earned her undergraduate degree from Davis & Elkins College and her law degree from Georgetown University, Kirk said.

She was unavailable for comment because she is using some of her vacation time to do pro bono work in Moldova, Kirk said. The eastern European country was formerly part of the Soviet Union.

Writer Zack Harold contributed to this report.

Contact writer Dave Boucher at 304-348-4843 or david.boucher@dailymail.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/Dave_Boucher1.


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