W.Va. AG challenger turns to Legislature for McGraw probe

John O'Brien Oct. 10, 2008, 1:24pm



CHARLESTON, W.Va. (Legal Newsline) - Dan Greear, the Republican candidate for West Virginia Attorney General, is urging lawmakers to investigate records missing from incumbent Darrell McGraw's office.

Greear said Friday he plans to hand-deliver a letter to Legislative Manager Aaron Allred, House Speaker Richard Thompson and Senate President Earl Ray Tomblin this weekend, asking for a probe into six months of missing records.

A report in the State Journal of Charleston quotes Attorney General's Office Comptroller Joe Clay as saying there are six months of misplaced records in response to a request by the publication.

The State Journal is looking for six years of payments made from McGraw's Consumer Protection Fund, sometimes criticized as his own slush fund for promoting his name.

"This is a shocking admission of ineptitude and the Legislative auditors need to launch an immediate investigation," Greear said. "I will ask the leadership of the Legislature and the Legislative manager to step in and seize the money currently in the Consumer Protection Fund until a full investigation can take place."

The State Journal article, titled "The $10 million Question," revisits McGraw's 2004 controversial settlement with Purdue Pharma, manufacturer of the prescription painkiller OxyContin.

The federal Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services has decided to withhold millions of dollars from its next Medicaid payment to the State, though the State is appealing. The issue began in 2004, when McGraw's office, representing the state Department of Health and Human Resources and two other state agencies, settled a lawsuit with Purdue Pharma over the allegedly misrepresented addiction capabilities of OxyContin.

McGraw's office argued in the complaint that the drug created addicts who put a strain on the state's Medicaid budget. The two sides settled for $10 million, though McGraw structured the settlement in a way that allowed him to keep the settlement funds for the purpose of appropriating them himself.

The CMS provides roughly 75 cents of every dollar the State spends on Medicaid and wants what it feels is its share. McGraw's office has continued to give the settlement proceeds to various substance abuse programs around the state, as well $500,000 for a pharmacy school at the University of Charleston.

A full accounting provided by McGraw's office of money spent from the OxyContin lawsuit obtained by Legal Newsline in April can be viewed here. Much of it has been given to day report centers, check-in points for those convicted of non-violent crimes.

"Everyone agrees with that, because for every dollar spent on the day report centers, it saves the counties $7 each on regional jail costs," Chief Deputy Attorney General Fran Hughes has said. "We were looking at it in terms of maximizing money for the state."

Greear has been critical of other Consumer Protection Division expenditures.

Greear said McGraw had a consumer protection booth at Fire on the Mountain, a chili cook-off held in July at Snowshoe Mountain.

"I don't think a lot of consumers are getting ripped off at the chili cook-off," Greear joked. "Maybe that's a problem, but I don't see that happening."

Greear also recently criticized McGraw for handing out gun locks with McGraw's name on them at gun shows. They were paid for by the settlement of a case.

Other settlement-provided items with McGraw's name on them were passed out at the Putnam County Fair and the West Virginia State Fair. They were displayed next to other political items from other candidates, Greear said.

"The attorney general's office paid for these trinkets," Greear said. "They supposedly aren't campaign items, but they are passed out in the Democrat political booth.

"That's a heck of a benefit, if you don't have to pay for your materials, but the state picks up the tab."

When asked by the State Journal why he was having such difficulty complying with its request, Clay replied, "There's just not a print out of who it was paid to. I'm having to go through books and books of information to get what you're asking for, and it takes time to pull out, copy and put back."

"There's six months that for whatever reason somebody's misplaced."

"McGraw's antics have come home to roost," Greear said. "He has used the Consumer Protection Division as a personal slush fund and his own Comptroller, the person who is supposed to know where the money goes, has admitted six months of records have vanished.

"The Legislature must find out if criminal activity has taken place or if there is simply shoddy management of the taxpayer money used as McGraw's slush fund. This is a shameful display of arrogance and incompetence."

From Legal Newsline: Reach John O'Brien by e-mail at john@legalnewsline.com.

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