McGraw's 'mistake' drawing criticism

John O'Brien Jun. 4, 2007, 1:00pm


CHARLESTON, W. Va. - After faltering in his plan to distribute an automobile consumers' guide, West Virginia Attorney General Darrell McGraw has been the subject of intense scrutiny.

The eight-page guide, called "Don't Get Taken For A Ride, A Consumer's Guide to Car Buying and Automotive Repairs," was called a "mistake" even by Chief Deputy Attorney General Fran Hughes.

The president of the West Virginia Auto and Truck Dealers Association had even more to say.

"I have no idea who's really responsible for writing the booklet, but it's just a venomous attack on the automobile industry," Ruth Lemmon said, according to a report in the Charleston Daily Mail. "It's absolutely full of innuendos and, quite frankly, is a slanted book that talks about scams and the profits we make.

"If our dealers made the profits they were alluding to, they'd be a lot happier campers than they are now."

The guide was supposed to be an answer to several complaints received by the Attorney General's office, was to be distributed to every dealership in the state and made available online. Lemmon claimed the guide was confusing and did not thoroughly explain the state's lemon law. She also said she was supposed to be involved in the creation of the guide, though she was never contacted.

"The person who was coordinating the project didn't contact Ms. Lemmon," Hughes said in the report. "We were operating under the assumption she would be involved in the process. When I found out, I immediately contacted Ms. Lemmon and apologized to her. It was a mistake. Now we're correcting the mistake."

Wheeling's newspaper, The Intelligencer, called the guide a poor use of state funds Thursday in an editorial.

"A better idea, in our opinion, would be to scrap the whole project," the editorial says. "As Lemmon pointed out, a variety of guides to car and truck buying and repairs are already available. Why spend more taxpayers' money on an addition the already long list of titles?"

McGraw's distribution of money has been a hot topic. Currently, he appears to be in hot water over his handling of a $10 million settlement with Purdue Pharma in 2004.

Also, the Wheeling News-Register in February called it "disgusting" that he asked for a $500,000 budget increase for the coming year to help with his office in the Eastern Panhandle.

"(W)hat is particularly distressing is that, had money collected by the attorney general's office been sent to the state treasury instead of handed out by McGraw, it could have been used by legislators to fund that new office in the Eastern Panhandle," the editorial says.

"Legislators should not let another year go by without reining in McGraw's office."

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