CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Kanawha County prosecutor's office has opened a criminal investigation into allegations of misconduct by three Department of Health and Human Resources employees.
Prosecutor Mark Plants on Tuesday filed a search warrant for records, files, documents and communications in DHHR offices used by attorneys Susan Perry and Jennifer Taylor and spokesman John Law.
"There's some allegations of potential bid-rigging," Plants said. "It's a felony to try to affect the outcome of a state bid."
No charges have been filed against the three, Plants said.
"This is just a preliminary investigation," he said.
The allegations are that Perry, Taylor and Law attempted to interfere with a request for proposal to alter, delay or eliminate the technical scores to favor The Arnold Agency, a Charleston-based ad agency, and remove Columbus-based Fahlgren Mortine as the highest rated vendor.
The three longtime DHHR administrators were placed on paid home reassignment leave on July 17, reportedly because they raised concerns about plans to award an advertising and marketing contract worth about $4 million a year to the highest of four bidders.
Two days after the three were placed on leave, DHHR formally awarded the contract to Columbus Ohio-based Fahlgren Mortine, an action that came more than six months after the bids had originally been opened.
According to the search warrant, Law had discovered in a conversation with DHHR Communications Director Marsha Dadisman that The Arnold Agency was not going to receive the contract because Fahlgren Mortine was the successful bidder.
"Ms. Dadisman was then instructed by Mr. Law, her boss, not to send the final scoring memo because he was 'going to make calls,'" according to the search warrant. "Mr. Law then, according to Ms. Dadisman, 'went around campaigning for Arnold to get the contract.'"
Law expressed concerns that an out-of-state-vendor would get the advertising contract during an election year, and that The Arnold Agency would have to lay off employees, according to the search warrant.
Perry suggested that Taylor do a "legal review" of the bidding process, according to the search warrant.
Perry and Law then asked for the "request for proposal" documents, including vendor proposals and technical scoring materials, according to the search warrant.
The documents were locked in Dadisman's office for a blackout period that requires bid and scoring information to remain confidential until the award is complete, according to the search warrant.
Dadisman expressed concerns about sharing the information, the search warrant states.
Perry told Dadisman, "'Oh, yeah. No problem. I do this all the time,' " according to the search warrant.
"Ms. Perry in fact had not done this previously," according to the search warrant.