Ousted VA hospital chief of staff selected WVa GOP chairman

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — An ousted chief of staff at a Veterans Affairs hospital has been selected as the chairman of the West Virginia Republican Party.

Members of the state Republican Executive Committee chose Raleigh County Republican Executive Committee Chairman Mark Harris on Saturday in Charleston, The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register reported.

Harris was selected over Conrad Lucas, a former state GOP chairman. Harris replaces Melody Potter, who resigned in January, citing the health of her parents.

Harris was chief of staff at the Beckley VA Medical Center from 2017 to 2019. He was dismissed after an investigation into sexual assault charges against a former doctor. Jonathan Yates was sentenced in January to 25 years in federal prison after pleading guilty to charges that he molested three male patients and violated their civil rights.

“A person who worked for me engaged in serious misconduct and was removed,” Harris told committee members Saturday. “Shortly thereafter I was replaced as chief of staff and currently I am retired. However, this election is not about me. It’s also not about you … it’s about us. It’s about the Republican Party of West Virginia.”

Mike Stuart, who is a former state GOP chairman and a former federal prosecutor whose office handled the VA hospital investigation, sent well wishes to Harris on Twitter.

“Congrats to Mark Harris on his election today as #WVGOP Chair,” Stuart wrote. “I will assist as needed to fight for a better future for all West Virginians of every party.”