At issue is whether Perry, Taylor and Law attempted to interfere with the awarding of the contract, which has a base value of $485,000 a year, but can be worth $4 million a year or more because numerous other state agencies "piggyback" on the contract for their advertising.
In their whistleblower suit, Perry and Taylor contend they were attempting to raise concerns over inconsistencies in the bid evaluation process. Ultimately, the DHHR awarded the contract to the highest of four bidders, Columbus, Ohio-based Fahlgren Mortine.
In the suit, Perry and Taylor argue that their concerns were heightened by an ongoing pattern of DHHR mishandling of previous bids, including a contract for a multimillion-dollar Medicaid computer system, where request for bids has had to be recalled and resubmitted three times, and where the current bid process is being challenged.
That mismanagement prompted an investigation by the state legislative auditor. That audit, released in August, concluded that DHHR lacks in-house expertise to oversee competitive bidding of contracts, and recommended that the DHHR's exemption from state purchasing regulations be withdrawn.
Walt Auvil, the attorney representing Perry and Taylor, said Plants' decision not to pursue criminal charges should be of benefit to their whistleblower suit.
Auvil said Monday he finds it inscrutable that the internal investigation has dragged on for more than six months.
"It's six months and two weeks and counting, and at the end of all that, the result of all this supposed investigation is basically nothing," he said.
"Whoever the quote-unquote people in charge are here -- what have they been doing?" Auvil commented.Reach Phil Kabler at ph...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1220.