by, Jack Swint...
Is there a price tag to be close to the governor? Ask soon to be former WVU President Mike Garrison or former Director of Public Policy and Federal Affairs, Brian Kastick. Kastick claims he enjoyed working for the Manchin administration when he left abruptly in 2006. Now, Manchins friend and former political confidant Garrison has to step down as university president over a black cloud of fraud & cover-ups that most people believe was orchestrated by the governor himself.
Garrisons appointment as the president of WVU was always felt to be a strategic move to allow the governor better control over the college. But, when the smoking gun emerged regarding Manchins daughter and a fraudulent college degree, he quickly let Garrison take the fall and lose his job. Even though it was short lived, it had some rewarding perks. Garrison enjoyed a very lucrative and high profile lifestyle heading up one of the nations leading universities. And he accomplished that with no formal background for the job except for being a friend and supporter of the governor.
Another friend and confidant is Milan "Mike" Puskar. Manchin insiders say that the governor wants to consider him as his his "BFF." Puskar’s wealth and standing in the business world is impeccable up to this point. A long list of achievements in the business world as the founder and board member of Mylan Pharmaceuticals & Platinum Properties. He is on the board of Centra Bank and Centra Financial Holdings, which are WV corporations founded in the early years in 2000. Puskar has shared his success and wealth in this state He even donated twenty million dollars to WVU.
Unfortunately, it may be Mr. Puskar’s turn to feel the heat from an association with the governor. Just like many others who befriended Manchin, Puskar, and his business ties received special favors in return for helping Joe get elected governor. Over the next coming months we will see if he throws this friend under the bus like Garrison and so many others to protect himself.
What possible favor or other gratuities could the governor possibly do for a man like Mike Puskar who appears on the surface to have it all?? It’s actually a pretty simple explanation.
Centra Financial Holdings, Inc., or Centra Bank, was formed on October 25, 1999 as a bank holding company. Centra Bank, Inc. was formed on September 27, 1999 and chartered under the laws of the state of West Virginia. The bank commenced operations on February 14, 2000. During the first quarter of 2001, Centra formed two second-tier holding companies, Centra Financial Corporation - Morgantown, Inc. and Centra Financial Corporation - Martinsburg, Inc. This was to manage the banking operations of Centra Bank, the sole bank subsidiary, in those markets. Milan "Mike" Puskar is on the banks executive board of directors. And he owns thousands of shares of stock in Centra Financial Holdings.
Credible inside sources attested this week that when Governor Joe Manchin took over as the chief executive officer for the state in January 2005, he began a bold and swift move to help both Puskar’s investment interests and his own. Using the power and authority as governor, Manchin began ordering some state agencies that were not using Centra Bank to begin switching over the bulk of those accounts to Centra immediately.
One small example: In January 2005, the racing commission transferred their monies to Centra Bank. Records obtained through the freedom of information act show the racing division has an average of $35.3 million dollars for the month of June 2008. Other state agencies listed by the WV Treasurer include the Supreme Court. Together, these accounts have been a major contributor to the continued success, growth and upward trend to Centra Banks net worth and standing in the banking industry and federal reserve board.
According to the banks own disclosures in June of 2005, "Total deposits in Berkeley County were $884 million and includes 28 banking offices. Centra's deposits account for 22.4% of the Monongahela County deposit base and 16.3% of Berkeley County. Centra is the primary locally owned bank in both regions." Centra Bank Document.(click on blue link)
The cash flow just from terminal revenues that the Lottery Commission deposited into bank accounts from betting proceeds in 2008 was ten billion dollars. Even though over time, nine billion was paid out in winnings, it still left an average balance of nine hundred forty two million dollars drawing interest. (It is not known at this time how much of this money may be in Centra Bank). Manchin has also arranged for Centra to enjoy earning monies from lucrative approved loan deals from the WV Economic & Development Authority. (WVDEA) He also gave the approving nod to the WV Public Service Commission for at least one loan refinancing to the Berkley County Public Service Sewer District for $726,000 through Centra Bank.
Has the governor personally benefited from moving the state bank accounts to his Centra by swinging business in their direction? Yes, according to anonymous statehouse sources for this story. Outside of the many thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from Puskar, Centra and Mylan Inc, (employees of Mylan contributed more than any W.Va. company to Governor Manchin’s 2004 election campaign). Manchin is alleged to have stock options through Puskar and his daughter Heather Bresch in Mylan Inc, Mylan Laboratories and also Centra Financial Holdings. Options that are worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Both Manchin and Garrison reportedly have investment portfolios at higher interest rates then normal at Centra. Also, according to one annual campaign financial report, the governor did receive $56,314 from Centra bank just for interest on account(s) in 2007. According to these same financial records, as of April 3, 2007, Manchin's campaign fund still has a balance of $1.9 million dollars sitting in Centra Bank from his 2004 election fund. (see link below)
Besides the governor’s daughter, what other connections are there to Manchin and Puskar? The answer is WVU President Mike Garrison.
Garrison served on Governor Manchin’s transition steering committee in 2005. He was a registered lobbyist for Centra Bank. Puskar is a co-principal of Platinum Properties for which Garrison lobbied from February 2004 until at least May 2006. Garrison also was a registered lobbyist for Mylan Labs from February 2004 until he was named WVU president in April 2007. He also worked directly with Ms. Bresch from February 2004 to April 2005, when she was Mylan Labs’ vice president for public and government relations. And, lets not forget that Garrison served as Governor Wise’s chief of staff from May 2001 to October 2003.
Has this all been good business strategy by the governor? Or, has it all come down to a personal agenda. Some will say he has done nothing wrong, most will know transferring more of the states banking business to Centra Bank was only for personal gains and repayment of favors and campaign promises. Not just to Mike Puskar, but other bank executives including founder & CEO Douglas Leech, who was on the board that chose Mike Garrison as WVU President.
The governor has yet to show any sincere interest in the future of this state and residents who elected him on the belief that he would be the person who could make the positive changes that would benefit WV. Instead, he has been busy buying homes, boats, planes motorcycles and other lavish gifts while residents of this state are actually living in rest stop area’s across WV because they have no where to go.
So, you need to ask yourself, do you really want to be Joe's friend or business associate?
SEC insider trading document for M. Puskar (click on link)
Manchins Campaign Disclosure Form (click on link)
Chart Detailing M. Garrisons Connections (click on link)
Information for this story was provided by WV state employees and corroborated from state and private records.
End Of Story…..
West Virginia News
LinkedIn: Jack Swint