Charleston West Virginia 

Friday May 21, 1993



Brunner, Police Group at Odds Over Sales Pitch Story

A state official upset when a telephone solicitor invoked a slain trooper's name to raise donations says reports he made up the story are ludicrous.

"I am at a loss," said Bob Brunner, spokesman for Gov. Gaston Caperton. "What possible motivation would I have to lie? It's so absurd."

The American Association of Troopers, through its state chapter president, accused Brunner of fabricating details of a conversation he had with one of its operators who called to raise money.

Brunner said the caller mentioned slain Trooper Larry Hacker and said a donation could help the families of fallen officers.

Hacker had been shot to death in Ritchie County while investigating a dispute between neighbors just days before the April
phone call.

"I'm not saying this as the governor's spokesman. I am talking to you as citizen Bob Brunner. This was the day of (Hacker's) funeral, the newscast ends, the telephone rings and here's a guy making this pitch," Brunner said.

He said he complained to the secretary of state's office.

But Sgt Robert D. Estepp, president of the association's West Virginia chapter, said a tape and transcript of the call to Brunner's home do not indicate Hacker's name was used.

"This guy's supposed to be one of the pillars of the community here. Why would he say things that didn't happen? What's behind it?" Estepp said.

But Brunner said a supervisor even called back moments later to apologize after Brunner questioned the solicitor.

Brunner, who leaves his post in the Caperton administration next week, said several other citizens reported similar pitches involving Hacker's name.

Estepp said that in a transcript of the call, solicitor Greg Anderson identifies himself as representing "West Virginia State Troopers Lodge 8."

"West Virginia State Troopers don't have a lodge, they have a troopers association," Brunner is quoted as saying.

Anderson responded, "We have a Troopers Lodge 8 sir, ah..." "I don't know who we are but I am a member of that force and I don't recognize any Lodge 8," Brunner is quoted as saying. Estepp said he was angered Brunner purported to be a trooper. Brunner said he merely identified himself as "a member of state government"

Brunner challenged the legitimacy of the transcript.

"I question the motives and I question the whole process of somebody coming forward with what purports to be a tape and a transcript five weeks after the fact," Brunner said.

"Having been In the electronic media myself, I know you can edit tape and make something sound the way you want It to sound," said Brunner, a former anchorman for WSAZ-TV In Charleston.

In the transcript, neither party mentions Hacker's death.

CoL Thorn Kirk, the state police superintendent, was unavailable for comment until tonight, a man who answered the phone at his home said Thursday night.

Estepp said Kirk promised to look into the situation.

Roy Hutto, executive director of the association, Initially apologized for Anderson's usage of Hacker's name, calling It "a tragic mistake."

Anderson was fired but rehired after the tape of the call was reviewed, Hutto said.

"I don't know why Bob Brunner's doing this, but It's very evident he is lying," Hutto said. "The caller did absolutely nothing wrong.