WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. (Legal Newsline) -- Hiring private attorneys to represent West Virginia on a contingency fee basis is illegal and unethical, Republican attorney general candidate Dan Greear told state business leaders Wednesday.
Greear said he would work on legislation setting forth how and why an attorney general can retain outside counsel.
"It needs to be more rational and competitive," he said.
Greear also said said no statute authorizes hiring of private attorneys on a contingency fee basis and that McGraw does it with "no authorization whatsoever."
Greear, a Charleston attorney, appeared alone at a candidate forum during the annual Business Summit of the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce.
The Chamber had invited Attorney General Darrell McGraw to the forum, but instead he kept a commitment in Elkins. McGraw seeks a fifth term.
Greear said three of McGraw's four victories have been close, noting that McGraw won by just 5,000 votes in 2004.
"The business community in 2004 had to think, 'If we had been a little more involved, we would have won,'" Greear said.
He said he couldn't imagine a better way to send a message to the nation that West Virginia's business climate has changed than to defeat McGraw.
Greear said he heard McGraw's Chief Deputy AG Fran Hughes on the radio asking why voters should change something that's working.
"Exactly who is it working for?" Greear asked. "As far as I can tell, it's not the business community. It's not working for the government agencies he is supposed to represent."
He noted state agencies may have to pay millions in Medicaid reimbursement to the federal government from a McGraw settlement in which the agencies received nothing.
Greear said placing Medicaid in jeopardy puts at risk the people McGraw portrays as the ones he represents.
He said it's unethical for McGraw to receive campaign donations from private attorneys who have received fees as his special assistants.
"Most people recognize that as a conflict of interest," he said. "It's illegal and unethical."
He said an attorney general shouldn't make rules or set policy. He said an attorney general should represent the interests of state agencies as his clients.
In private practice, he said, an attorney must be deferential to the beliefs and interests of a client.
"I'm there to assist clients and take my lead from them," Greear said.
He said he wouldn't take positions contrary to positions of agencies.
"I don't understand how or why that is allowed to happen," Greear said.