West Virginia Code
CHAPTER 6B. PUBLIC OFFICERS AND EMPLOYEES; ETHICS; CONFLICTS OF INTEREST; FINANCIAL DISCLOSURE.
ARTICLE 2B. LIMITATIONS ON A PUBLIC OFFICIAL FROM USING HIS OR HER NAME OR LIKENESS.
As used in this article:
(a) “Advertising” means publishing, distributing, disseminating, communicating or displaying information to the general public through audio, visual or other media tools. It includes, but is not limited to, billboard, radio, television, mail, electronic mail, publications, banners, table skirts, magazines, social media, websites and other forms of publication, dissemination, display or communication.
(b) “Agent” means any volunteer or employee, contractual or permanent, serving at the discretion of a public official or public employee.
(c) “Educational materials” means publications, guides, calendars, handouts, pamphlets, reports or booklets intended to provide information about the public official or governmental office. It includes information or details about the office, services the office provides to the public, updates on laws and services and other informational items that are intended to educate the public.
(d) “Instructional material” means written instructions explaining or detailing steps for completion of a governmental agency document or form.
(e) “Likeness” means a photograph, drawing or other depiction of an individual.
(f) “Mass media communication” means communication through audio, visual, or other media tools, including U.S. mail, electronic mail, and social media, intended for general dissemination to the public. Examples include mass mailing by U.S. mail, list-serve emails and streaming clips on websites. It does not include: (i) Regular responses to constituent requests or questions during the normal course of business; or (ii) communications that are authorized or required by law to be publicly disseminated, such as legal notices.
(g) "Public employee" means any full-time or part-time employee of any state, or political subdivision of the state, and their respective boards, agencies, departments and commissions, or in any other regional or local governmental agency.
(h) "Public official" means any person who is elected or appointed to any state, county or municipal office or position, including boards, agencies, departments and commissions, or in any other regional or local governmental agency.
(i) “Public payroll” means payment of public monies as a wage or salary from the state, or political subdivision of the state, or any other regional or local governmental agency, whether accepted or not.
(j) “Social media” means forms of electronic communication through which users create online communities to share information, ideas, personal messages and other content. It includes web and mobile-based technologies which are used to turn communication to interactive dialogue among organizations, communities and individuals. Examples include, but are not limited to, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and YouTube.
(k) “Trinkets” means items of tangible personal property that are not vital or necessary to the duties of the public official's or public employee's office, including, but not limited to, the following: magnets, mugs, cups, key chains, pill holders, band-aid dispensers, fans, nail files, matches and bags.
(a) Trinkets - Public officials, their agents, or anyone on public payroll may not place the public official's name or likeness on trinkets paid for with public funds: Provided, That when appropriate and reasonable, public officials may expend a minimal amount of public funds for the purchase of pens, pencils or other markers to be used during ceremonial signings.
(b) Advertising- (1) Public officials, their agents, or anyone on public payroll may not use public funds, including funds of the office held by the public official, public employees, or public resources to distribute, disseminate, publish or display the public official's name or likeness for the purpose of advertising to the general public.
(2) Notwithstanding the prohibitions in subdivision (1) of this subsection, the following conduct is not prohibited:
(A) A public official’s name and likeness may be used in a public announcement or mass media communication when necessary, reasonable and appropriate to relay specific public safety, health or emergency information.
(B) A public official’s name and likeness may appear on an agency’s social media and website provided it complies with section three of this article.
(C) Dissemination of office press releases or agency information via email, social media or other public media tools for official purposes is not considered advertising or prohibited under this subsection, if it: (i) Is intended for a legitimate news or informational purpose; (ii) is not intended as a means of promotion of the public official; and (iii) is not being used as educational material.
(3) Banners and table skirts are considered advertising and may not include the public official’s name or likeness.
(4) Nothing in this article shall be interpreted as prohibiting public officials from using public funds to communicate with constituents in the normal course of their duties as public officials if the communications do not include any reference to voting in favor of the public official in an election.
(c) Vehicles- Public officials, their agents, or any person on public payroll may not use or place the public official's name or likeness on any publicly owned vehicles.
(d) Educational Materials- A public official’s name or likeness may not be placed on any educational material that is paid for with public funds: Provided, That this prohibition does not apply to the submission of a report required to be issued by law.
(a) A public official’s name and likeness may appear on a public agency’s website and social media subject to the following restrictions:
(1) The public official’s name may appear throughout the website if it is reasonable, incidental, appropriate and has a primary purpose to promote the agency’s mission and services rather than to promote the public official.
(2) The public official’s likeness may only appear on the agency’s website home page and on any pages or sections devoted to biographical information regarding the public official.
(3) The public official’s name and likeness may appear on the agency’s social media if it is reasonable, incidental, appropriate and has a primary purpose to promote the agency’s mission and services rather than to promote the public official.
(b) This section does not apply to personal or non-public agency social media accounts.
(c) A public agency’s website or social media may not provide links or reference to a public official’s or public employee’s personal or campaign social media or website.
(a) A public official may use his or her name or likeness on any official record or report, letterhead, document or certificate or instructional material issued in the course of his or her duties as a public official: Provided, That other official documents used in the normal course of the agency, including, but not limited to, facsimile cover sheets, press release headers, office signage and envelopes may include the public official’s name: Provided, however, If the official documents are reproduced for distribution or dissemination to the public as educational material, the items are subject to the prohibitions in subsection (d), section two of this article.
(b) When appropriate and reasonable, the West Virginia Division of Tourism may use a public official’s name and likeness on material used for tourism promotion.
(c) The prohibitions contained in this article do not apply to any person who is employed as a member of the faculty, staff, administration, or president of a public institution of higher education and who is engaged in teaching, research, consulting, coaching, recruiting or publication activities: Provided, That the activity is approved as a part of an employment contract with the governing board of the institution of higher education or has been approved by the employee's department supervisor or the president of the institution by which the faculty or staff member is employed.
(d) The prohibitions contained in section two of this article do not apply to a public official’s campaign-related expenditures or materials.
(e) The prohibitions contained in section two of this article do not apply to items paid for with the public official’s personal money.
(f) The prohibitions contained in section two of this article do not apply to items or materials required by law to contain the public official’s name or likeness.
(a) If a public official, public employee or public agency possesses items or materials in contravention of this rule or section five-c, article two of this chapter that were purchased prior to the effective date, the public official, public employee or public agency may not continue to distribute, disseminate, communicate or display publicly these items or materials.
(b) Notwithstanding the prohibition in subsection (a) of this section,
(1) Materials may be used publicly if the public official’s name or likeness are permanently removed or covered: Provided, That a public official’s name or likeness may be covered with a sticker, be marked out or obliterated in any other manner;
(2) The public agency may use the items or materials for internal use if they are not publicly distributed, disseminated, communicated or displayed; and
(3) When appropriate and in compliance with law, a public agency may donate the items to surplus, charity or an organization serving the poor and needy.
If any of the prohibitions contained in this article create an undue hardship or will cause significant financial impact upon the public agency to bring existing material, vehicles or items into compliance with this article, the public agency may seek a written exemption from the West Virginia Ethics Commission. In any request, the Ethics Commission shall make public the name of public agency seeking the exemption, along with the affected public official, if any.