Bray Cary, the EQT board member who refused to leave the administration of West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice even though many said he had a conflict of interest by staying, is finally leaving the EQT board in July. We first told you about Cary’s exit last week (see EQT Issues List of Board Nominees; Adopts Universal Proxy Card). Cary had a few comments for the media about his departure.
In 2017, MDN told you about the kerfuffle over Cary and his work as an unpaid, “informal” adviser to WV Gov. Jim Justice (see EQT Bd Member Continues to Stir Controversy in WV Gov Office Role). Cary has his own “swipe card” giving him 24/7 access to the WV Capitol. He routinely takes part in policy-oriented meetings. At the time he was not on the payroll and didn’t answer to anyone, making him exempt from the state Ethics Act.
We said: “Because Cary sits on the EQT board, and EQT has big assets in WV, critics see a conflict of interest. In our own simple words, Bray Cary has become a problem for EQT–a problem that needs to get fixed, fast. He either needs to end his role as unpaid adviser to West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice, or resign from EQT’s board of directors.” As we learn from the article below, Cary later was added to the payroll, but only for appearances. He’s only been paid a few thousand dollars. For all intents Cary remains an unpaid volunteer.
Hey, volunteerism is a good thing! We admire someone independently wealthy like Cary who volunteers his time for his home state. We get it. It’s a good thing to do. But he should have resigned from the EQT board long ago if he wants to concentrate on helping Justice. At any rate, the “Cary problem” will get fixed come July.
Bray Cary, senior adviser for West Virginia’s governor, is departing the board of the natural gas giant EQT.
As reported by The Wall Street Journal and others, Cary is one of three board members stepping away ahead of a shareholder vote likely to determine control of the company.
“I let them know about six weeks ago that I wasn’t going to stand for re-election,” Cary told MetroNews this morning.
“Given my tenure on the board and my involvement in the Justice administration I figured it was a good time to step away.”
Cary has served on EQT’s board for about a decade, but that status became controversial when he got more involved in 2017 with the administration of Gov. Jim Justice and progressively more central to the inner workings of the Governor’s Office.
“It’s about time,” said Senate Energy Chairman Randy Smith, R-Tucker. “I’m glad that he has stepped down, considering the position he holds in the Governor’s Office.
“I believe he’s an honorable man, but it didn’t look good with him being on the board of directors of one of the largest gas companies and advising the governor on energy policies.”
Smith alluded to Cary’s central role in the Governor’s Office.
Justice spends many of his days away from the Capitol, often near home in Greenbrier County instead. The governor has alluded to being able to call Cary at all hours.
“With the position he holds and basically being the main person in the Governor’s Office, I don’t know how he had time to do anything else because he’s basically running the Governor’s Office,” Smith said.
The West Virginia Royalty Owners Association was one of the groups critical of Cary’s dual role, often saying his prominent role in the Governor’s Office made avoiding conflicts on natural gas issues impossible.
“The WVROA is happy to see his departure from EQT’s board and hopes he will continue to bolster the public’s trust by divesting any stock or investments he has in EQT,” stated Tom Huber, president of the royalty owners association.
According to records, Cary has bought EQT stock valued at more than $2 million since 2014.
The most recent purchase was 1,205 shares on April 1 valued at $24,991.
In 2018, the Legislature passed a bill inspired by Cary’s situation to expand the Ethics Act to include “citizen volunteers.” Since then, Cary has gone on payroll, although at a rate considered part time and minimal.
Cary’s total compensation in the Governor’s Office last year, according to state records, was $3,937.50.
EQT has been going through changes at its top, as Rice Energy’s brothers Toby and Derek Rice have pushed for a change in strategy and shake up of the board. The brothers own about 3.1 percent of EQT stock.
Cary joined EQT’s board of directors in July 2008. He has been serving as a member of the Corporate Governance and Management Development and Compensation Committees.
His biography on the EQT site was never updated to reflect his service as the governor’s highest-ranking adviser.
Cary was a longtime media executive, most recently running West Virginia Media Corp. and hosting the “Decision Makers” weekly public affairs program.
In that role, he was an outspoken critic of the business practices of Jim Justice during the 2016 election for governor.
But Cary wound up developing trust with Justice after he was elected governor, solidified it through communications work during the 2017 statewide road bond vote and became more and more entrenched in day-to-day operations of the executive branch.
Last year, Justice responded publicly to questions about Cary, saying he had earned loyalty.
“Bray Cary is the most unlikely person in the world to have a bond with Jim Justice. Nobody on the planet beat on me worse than Bray Cary beat on me through the election process and everything. And Bray called me about everything you could possibly call somebody.
“So how? How is that. Well, you see, I don’t carry bad thoughts with me. I don’t. And really, truly, Bray Cary is an extremely talented man that genuinely loves our state. Bray Cary truly makes not one single dime being here but he works his tail off, and he’s a worker, and he’s got knowledge.”
Justice said he had not seen any kind of ethical transgression.
“Never one time, never one time do I feel like there is any type of conflict with EQT. Nothing,” Justice said last year. “If we get into a natural gas discussion, many times he has excused himself. Many times I’ve said ‘Bray you shouldn’t be in this and everything.’
“But really and truly, never once, never one time has he asked me even remotely think that could be tied or a favor for anything for EQT. Never one time.”*
We’ll take Justice at his word. Cary is honorable and never asked for a favor for EQT. Doesn’t matter! It’s still the appearance of a conflict.
*Charleston (WV) MetroNews (May 9, 2019) – Bray Cary, governor’s senior adviser, now off EQT board
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