(a) The office shall employ as many underground mine inspectors as the director determines to be reasonably necessary in fully and effectively carrying out the applicable provisions of this chapter.
(b) To be eligible for employment as a mine inspector the applicant shall be: (1) A citizen of West Virginia, in good health, not less than twenty-four years of age, of good character and reputation and of temperate habits; (2) a person who has had at least five years of practical experience in coal mines, at least two years of which have been in mines of this state: Provided, That graduation from any accredited college of mining engineering may be considered the equivalent of two years of practical experience; (3) a person who has had practical experience with dangerous gases found in coal mines; and (4) a person who has a good theoretical and practical knowledge of mines, mining methods, mine ventilation, sound safety practices and applicable mining laws and rules. For the purpose of this section, practical experience means the performance of normal mining duties requiring a person to hold a certificate of competency and qualification as an experienced underground miner prior to actually performing such duties.
(c) In order to qualify for appointment as an underground mine inspector, an eligible applicant shall submit to written, oral and practical examinations administered by the mine inspectors' examining board and furnish evidence of good health, character and other facts establishing eligibility as the board may require. The examinations shall relate to the duties to be performed by an underground mine inspector and, subject to the approval of the mine inspectors' examining board, may be prepared by the director. If the board finds after investigation and examination that an applicant: (1) Is eligible for appointment; and (2) has passed each required examination, with a grade of at least seventy-five percent or an overall combined average score of eighty percent, the board shall add the applicant's name and grades to the register of qualified eligible candidates and promptly certify its action in writing to the director. The director shall then appoint one of the candidates from the three having the highest grades.
(d) Underground mine inspectors shall be paid an annual salary of not less than $38,160; assistant inspectors-at-large, not less than $44,448; inspectors-at-large, not less than $46,104, each of which shall be fixed by the director, who shall take into consideration ability, performance of duty, and experience. In accordance with established rules of the state's travel management office, underground mine inspectors shall also be allowed and paid expenses necessarily incident to the performance of their official duties: Provided, That no reimbursement for expenses may be made other than upon the timely submittal of a properly itemized expense account settlement completed by the underground mine inspector, approved and countersigned by the director, or his or her designated representative, verifying that the expenses were actually incurred in the performance of official duties. Underground mine inspectors shall devote all of their time to the duties of the office and shall be afforded compensatory time or compensation of at least the regular rate for all time in excess of forty hours per week.
(e) (1) An underground mine inspector, after having received a permanent appointment, may be removed from office only for physical or mental impairment, incompetency, neglect of duty, public intoxication, malfeasance in office or other similarly good cause.
(2) Proceedings for the removal of an underground mine inspector may be initiated by the director whenever there is reasonable cause to believe that adequate cause exists, warranting removal. The proceeding may be initiated by a verified petition, filed with the mine inspectors' examining board by the director, setting forth with particularity the facts alleged. Not less than twenty reputable citizens, who are operators or employees in mines in this state, may petition the director for the removal of an underground mine inspector. If the petition is verified by at least one of the petitioners, based on actual knowledge of the affiant of the alleged facts, which, if true, warrant the removal of the inspector, the director shall cause an investigation of the alleged facts to be made. If, after the investigation, the director finds that there is substantial evidence, which, if true, warrants removal of the inspector, the director shall file a petition with the board requesting removal of the inspector.
(3) On receipt of a petition by the director seeking removal of an underground mine inspector, the board shall promptly notify the inspector to appear before it at a time and place designated in the notice, which time shall be not less than fifteen days thereafter. There shall be attached to the copy of the notice served upon the inspector a copy of the petition filed with the board.
(4) At the time and place designated in the notice, the board shall hear all evidence offered in support of the petition and on behalf of the inspector. Each witness shall be sworn, and a transcript shall be made of all evidence taken and proceedings had at the hearing. No continuance may be granted except for good cause shown. The chair of the board and the director have power to administer oaths and subpoena witnesses.
(5) If any mine inspector against whom a petition has been filed willfully refuses or fails to appear before the board, or having appeared, refuses to answer under oath any relevant question on the basis that the testimony or answer might incriminate him or her or refuses to waive immunity from prosecution because of any relevant matter about which the inspector may be asked to testify, then the inspector shall forfeit his or her position.
(6) If, after hearing, the board finds that the inspector should be removed, it shall enter an order to that effect. The decision of the board is final and is not subject to judicial review.