DHHR fires longtime spokesman
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Longtime Department of Health and Human Resources communications director and assistant secretary John Law said Tuesday he has been fired, effective Jan. 23.
Law and DHHR attorneys Susan Perry and Jennifer Taylor were placed on administrative leave in July after raising concerns over the bid process to award a multimillion-dollar advertising and marketing contract.
All three have remained on the DHHR payroll, and Law has worked from his home, emailing DHHR news summaries and updates to the media.
Law said he received his termination letter Tuesday afternoon, after being verbally notified Monday evening that he was being fired.
The letter does not give grounds for dismissal, but states, "As you are aware, you serve at the will and pleasure of the secretary [of DHHR] and may be removed with or without cause."
It indicates that, in addition to receiving his salary through Jan. 23, Law will receive 15 days' severance pay.
Law, Perry and Taylor were placed on paid administrative leave in July by acting Secretary Rocco Fucillo, while the DHHR inspector general's office launched an investigation to determine if the three improperly interfered in the awarding of the advertising contract, ultimately awarded to the highest of four bidders, Ohio-based Fahlgren Mortine.
In September, Perry and Taylor filed suit in Kanawha Circuit Court against Fucillo, contending the disciplinary actions against them violated the state whistleblower law, which prohibits retaliation against public employees for reporting incidents of wrongdoing or government waste.
Perry and Taylor indicated they asked that DHHR review the evaluation and scoring of the four bid packages, over concerns that the department had botched previous bid processes.
Law also reportedly asked DHHR officials to provide "talking points" to explain why the contract was awarded to an out-of-state company and the high bidder, anticipating media inquiries.
The pattern of mishandling bid evaluations included a contract for a multimillion-dollar Medicaid Management Information System, where the request for bids had been recalled and resubmitted three times, prompting an investigation by the state legislative auditor.
Currently, the awarding of the $248 million contract to Molina Medicaid Solutions is prompting a court challenge by another bidder, Xerox State Health Care, which contends that DHHR officials mishandled the bid process. Xerox officials say that, among other issues, DHHR inadvertently provided Xerox bid documents containing trade secrets, proprietary information and confidential information to Molina.
Law did not join in Perry and Taylor's lawsuit, which is pending in Kanawha Circuit Court, but said he anticipates pursuing legal action.
"I think that's something I'll look at," he said.
Law, who had nearly 12 years' service with DHHR, said his first priority will be looking for employment.
"Everybody needs a job, and I need one," he said.
DHHR spokeswoman Marsha Dadisman issued a statement Tuesday evening confirming Law's termination.
"Law served at the will and pleasure of the department as its director of communications from February 2001 to the present," Dadisman stated. "In accordance with the West Virginia Division of Personnel's legislative rule 143CSR1, regarding confidentiality and privacy rights of employees, no further comment will be made at this time."
Reach Phil Kabler at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-1220.