Updated Wednesday, May 1, 2019 at 5:15 p.m.
Weeks ahead of a special session that will focus on education, the top ranking member of a House of Delegates committee is stepping down from their post because of a personal relationship he says is viewed as disrespectful.
House Education Chair Danny Hamrick (R-Harrison) submitted a letter Tuesday to Speaker Roger Hanshaw (R-Clay).
“I am writing this letter to notify you that I will be stepping down from the position of Chair of House Education effective immediately,” Hamrick wrote.
The letter indicates that Hamrick will continue serving in the Legislature. He was first elected to the House in 2012 and took over as chair of the Education Committee at the beginning of the 2019 session.
“I very much appreciate that you provided me the opportunity to serve in this capacity, and I look forward to continuing to serve under your strong leadership in this 84th Legislature,” the letter reads.
In an emailed statement Wednesday, Hamrick said he stepped down as chair as a result of a personal relationship he had with a member of the legislative staff. His biography on the Legislature's website indicates he is married.
"I made a mistake and I take full responsibility for that mistake," Hamrick said.
According to the statement, Hamrick began the relationship near the end of the session. He did not identify the staff member in question in either version of his statement.
"Although in my personal view I equate this relationship to have been no more than a mutual high school crush. I understand that rumors tend to proliferate within the Capitol and this incident is viewed as disrespectful to the House of Delegates as a body and to other West Virginians," he said. "Therefore, even though no policies were violated, I voluntarily stepped away from my position as Chair of House Education at Speaker Hanshaw’s request."
Less than an hour later, Hamrick sent a revised statement and said he wanted to "avoid any possible incorrect information." The only change in the revised statement was the removal of the phrase "even though no policies were violated."
In a statement issued Wednesday afternoon, Hanshaw explained that polices regarding relationships between staff and delegates do exist.
“Delegates and staff are instructed during human resources training that they are not to have relations with employees under their direct supervision,” Hanshaw said. “Additionally, staff interns are instructed during their orientation that they are not to have relationships with delegates. Sanctions for violating these policies include termination of an individual’s employment or punishment of members under applicable rules of the House.”
House communications director Jared Hunt said Hanshaw will appoint a new chair in the coming days.