CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- For all his faults as attorney general, I think everyone would agree that Darrell McGraw oversaw a top-notch Consumer Protection Division -- which is vital in a state that has no Better Business Bureau to speak of, or similar organizations to protect consumers.
Given that Attorney General Patrick Morrisey has spent a good portion of his legal career on the other side of that equation, working for big-city law firms representing giant health care conglomerates -- and given that Big Tobacco and Big Pharma spent millions on McGraw attack ads to benefit Morrisey -- there are legitimate concerns that the new A.G. would scale back consumer protection efforts.
So far, there's been nothing to dissuade those concerns.
Morrisey's planned hiring of retired State Trooper <B>Gordon Ingold<P> as the new Consumer Protection Division director doesn't exactly inspire confidence.
Faithful Gazette readers may recall that Ingold was one of the key players in a Gazette lawsuit a couple of years back to force the State Police to release information about internal investigations of officers accused of abuse or brutality.
Ingold and fellow officers took a "public be damned" attitude toward the release of the investigation reports -- an approach one would hope doesn't carry over to Consumer Protection.
Meanwhile, Morrisey has started handing out pink slips to employees in the attorney general's office who had hoped to stay on through the transition.
Again, it's not very confidence-inspiring to learn that three of Morrisey's first five terminations are in Consumer Protection, including the division's only investigator, Derek Walker.
Also let go from Consumer Protection are Breana Crites and John Street, who served as home mortgage liaison.
Also out are: Paul Sheridan, longtime (and highly honored) deputy attorney general for the Civil Rights Division, and Doren Burrell assistant attorney general for licensing boards.
Speaking of Morrisey, there's still a huge backlog of state contracts waiting to be awarded, but requiring approval from the attorney general's office.
(As noted last week, under state purchasing law, contracts of $25,000 or more have to be approved as to form by the attorney general's office, to verify the contracts are properly signed and documented, and that all terms or conditions in the contracts comply with state law.)
As it turned out, the only attorney in the attorney general's office with "signature authority" to approve state contracts was Dawn Warfield.
Last week, I said she had left the attorney general's office after the November election to go to work for Auditor Glen Gainer. Actually, she announced she was leaving after the election, but stayed on through Dec. 31 -- which explains why the last contracts approved before the nearly month-long "gap" were dated Dec. 28.