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through our administration—the construction engineer, the district engineer, the maintenance engineer, and the right-of-way agent-I was the only Republican there through the whole administration. And Mr. Howard, the district engineer, is as fine a man as I ever was associated with in my life. He came to me and said to me why I sent my resignation in and I said, “Mr. Howard, it's doctor's advice that I get away. I don't have to do it, but it's getting on my nerves.”
He said Charlie, you have 56 days' sick leave coming. You have 30 days' vacation. Why don't you take off 2 or 3 weeks and just take care of the cases in court and let Mr. O'Brien handle the office work in here?
I got another call from Duffy Horan and he said it was understood that since I would be 65 on January 24 and on social security, that it was their understanding I was to be kept on.
I did write my resignation up with knowing Mr. John E. Mays, who came in as district engineer, under the same circumstances I know we kept him on for 5 or 6 months with a nervous breakdown, and kept him on employment for 4 years from the day he came in as a 12. He got the ax. Then I did receive a letter from him that my resignation was accepted as of March 31, 1961, and thanked me for what I had did in supervising the right-of-way of the State Road Commission of West Virginia.
Mr. CRAMER. You were asked to stay on until retirement ?
Mr. WHITE. That was what I brought up there, with the understanding that I had all of that sick leave coming, which I did lose. But when it come I was glad to give it up and step out.
Mr. May. Mr. White, you mentioned commissioners' hearings.
Mr. May. Will you tell us just a little bit about that, and what your experience was?
Mr. WHITE. I have taken notes, which I don't want to bring any names in unless it's required, but it was in Barbour County. The appraisements I know was made by two appraisers over there was $2,975. The commissioners of Barbour County court gave them $6,000.
Another one we had offered them $400. They gave him $1,300. Another one was $14,080. The commissioners gave him $19,000. Another one was $1,915, and the commissioners come up with $6,000. Another one was $1,045, and the commissioners come up with $4,500.
Mr. May. But generally speaking, the awards of the commissioners were in excess of the highest appraisal figure obtained by the State ?
Mr. WHITE. That's right. Practically every case that we did appeal up to the circuit court in two or three different counties, the 12man jūry gave them more than the commissioners. It's a difficulty we have in small counties where they are neighbors. The prosecutor and judge has to be elected, and when you go in to condemn it, taking somebody's property, you are making enemies.
Mr. May. And this becomes a real problem?
Mr. May. The witnesses are made up of townspeople. It is not necessary to be a qualified appraiser in order to give testimony at the hearings, is it?
Mr. WHITE. That's right. And another thing is, whenever the witness comes in before this commission, they haven't a judge but they have a chairman of the five in the commission where they can get anything over to the commission they want to, and there is no chance of objecting or not admitting it in evidence at all.
Mr. May. Of course, if the commissioners grant a high award, the State road commission does have a right to bring that case to court.
Mr. WHITE. The State road commission or the property owner has 10 days to appeal to the circuit court of the county.
Mr. May. That's right. That, Mr. White, is why it becomes so important to obtain proper appraisals made by qualified appraisers, because it is based on those appraisals and those appraisers that the State's case is based.
Mr. WHITE. That's right.
Mr. May. Which brings us to fee appraisers. Were you satisfied with the fee appraisers' work in your district ?
Mr. WHITE. Mr. May, I had one or two appraisers I was not satisfied with. I didn't appoint them. I never did recommend but one man and I had searched the two counties outside of my own county to get a qualified appraiser. At that time I was getting an appraiser out of Oak Hill, several miles away. Under my term I had the first man, Aubrey Halstead of Oak Hill, Gene Golden of Wheeling, that from what I have learned, they was the most qualified appraisers that I had to come in my district. I did have Vernon Page of Clarksburg and George East of Clarksburg, and Mr. Gavitt of Grafton, and David Stalnaker.
David Stalnaker was sent in to me on a transfer job, S-89(2), on this extra taking. And I talked to him and I had learned then that I was not satisfied with him as an appraiser, and I did call Mr. Thompson, that he could appraise where they had just taken the land, not close to any improvement; but where there was building and improvements that I wanted Aubrey Halstead, the man that had appraised before on the original taking. And the ones that Stalnaker did appraise, I had more trouble on condemnations than any of them that I ever had.
Mr. May. Mr. White, you mentioned you were able to find one appraiser in your territory.
Mr. WHITE. That was Mr. R. R. Colerider from Buckhannon. And I did know he was appraising for both banks at the time and for the Veterans’ Administration, and was in the real estate business.
Mr. May. Mr. Chairman, may we swear in Mr. George Burgess, a staff member?
Mr. WRIGHT. Mr. Burgess, will you stand, please, and raise your right hand? Do you solemnly swear the testimony you will give this subcommittee will be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?
TESTIMONY OF GEORGE E. BURGESS, MEMBER OF THE PROFES
SIONAL STAFF OF THE SPECIAL SUBCOMMITTEE ON THE FEDERAL-AID HIGHWAY PROGRAM
Mr. BURGESS. I do.
Mr. BURGESS. I am a member of the professional staff of the Federal-Aid Highway Subcommittee.
Mr. May. Mr. Burgess, you obtained affidavit from Mr. Ray R. Colerider?
Mr. BURGESS. Yes, sir. That is correct.
I, Ray R. Colerider, make the following free and voluntary statement to George E. Burgess, who has identified himself to me as a member of the professional staff of the special Public Works Subcommittee on the Federal-Aid Highway Program of the U.S. House of Representatives. I am aware that this statement may be used in a hearing before the aforementioned committee.
I am 77 years of age and reside at 121 South Kanawha Street, Buckhannon, W. Va. I am self-employed as a farmer, real estate broker and developer, appraiser for the Veterans Administration, and local banks on commercial loans, local utility companies. I am a vice president of the Adrian Buckhannon Bank, Buckhannon, W. Va., and maintain a real estate office at 12 West Main Street, Buckhannon, W. Va.
In approximately April 1958 I was visited at my real estate office in Buckhannon, W. Va., by Mr. C. G. White, West Virginia State Roads Commission, district right-of-way agent from Clarksburg, W. Va., who asked if I would do some appraisals on the forthcoming French Creek relocation project. I don't know how Mr. White happened to contact me. I don't know if anyone recommended me to him. I agreed to do some appraisals for the State road commission. He said there would be two appraisers and I would be paid for my work.
A few days later I met Mr. White near the project and was introduced to Mr. Aubrey Halstead, a fee appraiser, and Mr. Harold O'Brien, an engineer for the State. Mr. O'Brien used maps to show Mr. Halstead and me where the project would go and what property would be involved. He showed me where there would be cuts or fills or buildings taken. He generally acquainted us with the route to be taken by the road.
I believe I met Mr. Halstead the next day. Mr. Halstead explained to me how I should fill out the appraisal forms furnished to us. Mr. Halstead and I went to the parcels we were assigned to appraise and based on the information as to the take involved, which was furnished by Mr. O'Brien, made our appraisals.
Mr. Halstead and I measured the buildings, examined the buildings and actual effect of the take on the remainder of the land, took photographs. During our examination and afterward we would discuss our figures. In my opinion Mr. Halstead was generally high in his evaluation.
Halstead told me I was appraising too low. He said I should not appraise as though I was appraising for loan purposes. No one else ever gave me instructions.
Mr. Halstead was staying in Buckhannon at a motel and would type up his completed appraisal forms at night. He would give me a copy the next day to prepare my appraisal form.
Some short time after I had submitted my first appraisal forms, Mr. Halstead told me to not copy his exactly but to change the appraisals submitted by me so they were not identical to his.
I believe I prepared and submitted about 36 appraisals in this manner on this particular project.
Mr. Halstead and I discussed comparable sales of property in the area and I furnished Mr. Halstead with data regarding properties sold by me which was comparable to the subject properties. We also split the cost of photographs submitted with the appraisals.
I have viewed a copy of a reappraisal of parcel No. 6, project S-89(2), French Creek relocation project, Upshur County, which pertains to the Upshur County Board of Education, Buckhannon, W. Va. I note the form is signed in the name "Coalrider" and is dated July 10, 1958. This is not my name nor did I sign this name to any appraisal form. I have no idea who would have written the name "Coalrider" on the form.
With regard to parcel 11 of this project, property of the French Creek, Methodist Church, I wish to point out that I am a trustee of this church and was at the time it was appraised. I took no part in appraising the property but left the figuring to Mr. Halstead. I made no attempt to influence Mr. Halstead in any way. In submitting my appraisal form I specifically noted that I was a trustee of the church.
No person connected with the State roads commission, except Mr. Halstead, ever mentioned the fact that appraisals on this project were very similar.
Mr. Halstead furnished me with a copy of his fee invoice to use in preparing my fee invoice.
I was paid a fee of $25 per appraisal on this project. I subsequently worked on DF-198(11), F-117 (8), and S-268(4) with other fee appraisers. I never had occasion to work with Mr. Halstead again.
On projects DF-198(11) and F-117 (8) I worked with Mr. Jairus Gavitt, a fee appraiser from Grafton, W. Va. I worked alone on S-268(4).
Mr. Gavitt and I would view the property together, take measurements and photographs, and exchanged comparables a few times. We did not work our figures out together and show each other our final appraisals.
I have read the above report and it is true to the best of my knowledge and belief.
(S) R. R. COLERIDER. Mr. May. That affidavit was also notarized ?
Mr. BURGESS. Yes, sir. By Mr. H. D. Abbott, notary public, Buckhannon, W. Va.
Mr. May. Thank you. You found Mr. Colerider was paid $25 a parcel for a total of $925?
Mr. BUGRESS. Yes, sir. That is correct.
Mr. May. I notice that Mr. Colerider stated Mr. Halstead made available to him a copy of Mr. Halstead's invoice for these same parcels.
Mr. BURGESS. Yes, sir. That is correct also.
Mr. May. So Mr. Colerider copied Mr. Halstead's invoice and got $25 a parcel or $925.
Mr. BURGESS. Yes, sir. He copied the invoice that was furnished to him at that time.
Mr. May. Did you find another invoice for Mr. Halstead?
Mr. Burgess. Yes, sir. Mr. Colerider had in his file a copy of an invoice which was signed in the name of Aubrey Halstead, which indicated Mr. Halstead had actually received $35 for an appraisal rather than $25, which was reflected on the copy furnished to Colerider for his purposes in submitting his own invoice. So there was a difference of $10 in appraisal fees, apparently, paid.
Mr. May. And actually Mr. Halstead did receive that higher figure from the State road commission for those same appraisals?
Mr. BURGESS. Yes, sir.
Mr. WHITE. I had nothing to do with that. I think you will find in the file in the office, when the first appraisals went in that Halstead and Mr. Colerider worked together; that Halstead's was approved and they were sent back with a letter from Mr. Thompson; it looked like it was copied, but just to keep them for file purposes. But that was a training period. More of getting on to the new analysis sheets that Mr. Colerider had been more familiar with the Veterans' Administration and the procedure that was being adopted and used for acquiring right-of-way. Mr. May. Do we have such a letter from Mr. Thompson? Mr. BURGESS. Yes, sir. We have a copy of that letter.
Mr. May. Before you read that, Mr. Chairman, may be make Mr. Colerider's affidavit exhibit 16 ?
Mr. WRIGHT. Without objection that affidavit will be exhibit 16.
(The document referred to was marked exhibit No. 16, and will be found in the files of the special subcommittee.)
Mr. May. Do you have a copy of both invoices, Mr. Burgess? Mr. BURGESS. Yes, sir; I do. Mr. May. May the invoices be marked exhibits 17-A and 17-B, Mr. Chairman?
Mr. Wright. Without objection, so ordered.
(The documents referred to were marked exhibit No. 17-A and 17-B, and will be found in the files of the special subcommittee.)
Mr. May. Would you read Mr. Thompson's letter, please?
Mr. BURGESS. It is a letter dated July 8, 1958, addressed to Mr. C. G. White, district right-of-way agent, the State road commission, Weston, W. Va. Re Project S–89 (2), French Creek Relocation, Upshur County:
DEAR MR. WHITE: We received the appraisals of Aubrey Halstead and R. R. Colerider for the above project. I find that Mr. Colerider has copied Mr. Halstead's amounts in practically all of the appraisals he made.
We have approved and signed Mr. Halstead's appraisals, your approved copy enclosed, but can see no reason to approve or disapprove the appraisals of Mr. Colerider. We are, therefore, returning your copy of Mr. Colerider's appraisals which you may place in your files only as a record.
In the future, we must insist that no appraiser have access to another appraiser's work. We are asking for the opinion of each appraiser where two are used and must insist that this be carried out. Very truly yours,
L. E. THOMPSON, Chief Appraiser. Mr. May. Mr. Colerider was paid for making those appraisals, Mr. White?
Mr. WHITE. He was.
Mr. May. Mr. Burgess, did Mr. Colerider thereafter obtain additional work from the State road commission?
Mr. BURGESS. Yes, sir. He obtained considerable additional work, submitting approximately some 70 appraisals and reappraisals after that time. Up to that time Mr. Colerider had submitted only occasional appraisals apparently, and from that point on he was commissioned to do roughly 70 appraisals, and was paid a total of $4,875 in return for his services subsequent to this particular happening. The total paid to Mr. Colerider for all of his services, according to the records available to us at the State road commission, was $5,910.
Mr. May. Mr. Burgess, did you review the appraisal reports?
Mr. May. Which were already mentioned in Mr. White's testimony, made by Mr. Halstead and Mr. Colerider?
Mr. BURGESS. Yes, sir.
Mr. BURGESS. Yes, sir. The appraisals were reviewed by myself and other members of the staff. În reviewing these appraisals, we determined 28 appraisals were identical in every respect, including