Chief adviser leaves EQT board

CHARLESTON — A senior adviser to West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice will not be returning to the board of one of the largest natural gas companies in the country, a position that raised concerns about conflicts of interest.

According to a press release, Bray Cary is one of three directors for EQT Corp. who are stepping down. EQT said that Cary, chairman James Rohr and director Lee Todd opted not to seek re-election to the board. EQT operates a number of natural gas well sites in Eastern Ohio, along with its other operations throughout the country.

“I let EQT know about six weeks ago that I wasn’t going to stand for re-election,” Cary said in an emailed statement. “Given my tenure on the board and my involvement in the Justice administration I figured it was a good time to step away.”

According to his bio on the EQT website, Cary has been on the EQT Board of Directors since 2008. Most recently, Cary served on the board’s Corporate Governance and Management Development and Compensation Committees.

EQT is a natural gas production company with operations in West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

“We thank Jim Rohr, Bray Cary and Lee Todd for their valuable contributions to EQT,” the EQT Board of Directors said in a statement. “Under their oversight, EQT has grown and transformed and today the company is poised to deliver tremendous near- and long-term shareholder value creation.”

Concerns have been raised in the past about Cary’s involvement with the EQT board while also advising the governor’s office. Cary owns 1,205 shares in EQT worth $24,991, purchased April 1. In 2017, Cary made $367,860 on total compensation as a EQT board member. During his time as adviser to the governor, Cary attended meetings involving natural gas businesses and projects.

Cary has served in the Justice administration since August 2017, coinciding with Justice’s switch from Democrat to Republican. Cary first served as a volunteer adviser then later took the title of senior adviser at a salary of $8.75 per hour.

Cary’s role in the Justice administration is a complete reversal from his opposition to Justice’s campaign leading up to the 2016 election. Then the owner of West Virginia Media Holdings – with four TV stations across the state and a newspaper – Cary used his editorial platform to hit Justice for not pay his tax debts. Cary was a supporter of the Republican candidate, former Senate President Bill Cole of Mercer County, and also a donor to the Republican Governor’s Association.

“Jim (Justice) can say he’s for the working families and people, but when we have the facts laid out in front of us, those pledges don’t ring true,” Cary said at the end of an episode of The State Journal’s Decision Makers leading up to the election.

By November 2017, Cary was praising the governor for “political vision and leadership” after the success of the October 2017 special election for the Roads to Prosperity bonds.

“There have been some terrific governors in our state’s history, but the facts are that Gov. Jim Justice has forever changed the future of our great state and its wonderful people,” Cary wrote in an editorial. “He has shown grit, patience and determination. But more importantly he has demonstrated to today’s politicians, and to future lawmakers, that when you put the people’s interest first, they embrace your ideas and give you support to overcome the career politicians trying to hold on to the status quo.”

According to his biography, Cary was the president of Creative Sports Marketing, which he sold to ESPN. He was the vice president of NASCAR before returning to West Virginia to start West Virginia Media Holdings. He has a journalism degree from West Virginia University.