CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey was overseeing his office's lawsuit against an Ohio drug company earlier this year while a Washington, D.C., lobbying group owned by Morrisey's wife collected $210,000 from the same drug distributor, records show.
Morrisey also has accepted $3,500 in contributions from the company and its executives since defeating former attorney general Darrell McGraw in the November 2012 election.
Morrisey held a meeting with Cardinal Health executives and the company's lawyer about the lawsuit in May and fielded correspondence about the case in late June, according to documents obtained by the Sunday Gazette-Mail.
In previous prepared statements, Morrisey has said he recused himself from the Cardinal Health lawsuit, which alleges that the company helped fuel Southern West Virginia's problem with prescription drug abuse by shipping excessive numbers of pain pills to the region. Morrisey has said he stepped aside from the case "earlier this year" and that his chief deputy, Dan Greear, has managed the case "since the beginning of the year."
On May 22, however, Morrisey and Greear met privately with two Cardinal Health executives and the drug company's Charleston lawyer, Mark Carter, who also led Morrisey's campaign transition team, records show. A Cardinal Health vice president gave a PowerPoint presentation about steps the company has taken to prevent drugs from being diverted for illegal use.
The meeting didn't include the Attorney General Office's outside counsel - Charleston lawyer Jim Cagle - who was hired by the office to represent the state in the Cardinal Health lawsuit.
On June 21, Carter had a letter hand-delivered to Morrisey about the attorney general's lawsuit against Cardinal Health.
Carter's letter gives no indication that Morrisey stepped aside from the Cardinal Health lawsuit.
Carter sent the letter directly to Morrisey. The header says, "Re: State of West Virginia, Patrick Morrisey v. Cardinal Health," and references the lawsuit case number in Boone County Circuit Court. It starts, "Dear General Morrisey."
The letter includes a copy of the May 22 PowerPoint presentation, the company's "standard operating procedures," several U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration reports and congressional testimony from the CEO of the Healthcare Distribution Management Association, an Arlington, Va., trade group that represents drug wholesalers.
Morrisey formerly lobbied for the trade group, generating $250,000 for his Washington, D.C.-based law firm over 16 months.
In the letter, Carter also promised that Cardinal Health would later disclose its "return policies" - presumably for unused and unopened prescription drugs returned to the company's distribution center. Morrisey requested the policies, according to the letter.
Carter asked for a follow-up meeting with Morrisey.
"We trust this information will be helpful to you, and we likewise expect that you will have additional questions regarding these materials," Carter wrote to Morrisey.
Morrisey and Greear also met privately with Carter on March 6, but Morrisey would not say what the meeting was about.
Morrisey's office recently acknowledged the meetings and released Carter's letter in response to a Gazette-Mail request under the state's Freedom of Information Act.
Last week, Morrisey would not answer specific questions about his meeting with Carter and Cardinal Health executives and, instead, his office released a statement.
"The attorney general has taken very positive and proactive steps to voluntarily step aside from this case when he was not required to do so," said Beth Ryan, a Morrisey spokeswoman. "Our office continues to litigate this matter. We have no further comment."
The Gazette-Mail also has requested emails exchanged by Morrisey's office and Cardinal Health lawyers. Morrisey has refused to release any additional documents, saying "if they exist" he could withhold the records from the public.
Morrisey received June update on Cardinal Health lawsuit
McGraw filed suit against Cardinal Health in June 2012, alleging that the company profited from Southern West Virginia's pain-pill "epidemic." Morrisey inherited the lawsuit when he took office on Jan. 14 of this year.
In late July, Morrisey announced that he had stepped aside from the Cardinal Health lawsuit after the Gazette-Mail revealed that the pain-pill distributor contributed $2,500 to Morrisey's inauguration, and that Morrisey's wife, Denise Henry, lobbied for Cardinal Health.