CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A former Department of Health and Human Resources attorney, currently a party to a whistleblower suit against the department, received permission Thursday from the state Ethics Commission to register as a lobbyist -- without having to wait a year.
Commissioners ruled that Jennifer Taylor -- who was fired as DHHR legal counsel in June after being placed on paid administrative leave in July 2012 -- may register as a lobbyist without waiting a year under the Ethics Act's "revolving door" prohibition.
As part of legislation passed in 2011 to toughen the state Ethics law, elected officials and high-ranking aides are barred from registering as lobbyists for one year after leaving public office. That law was prompted after Larry Puccio registered as a lobbyist for the Charles Town casino and other entities days after stepping down as chief of staff for then-Gov. Joe Manchin.
Commissioners Thursday concluded that the prohibition applies to high-ranking aides of statewide elected officials -- and that Taylor reported to the DHHR secretary, not to the governor.
Taylor, who has opened a private law practice in Charleston, said Thursday she is looking to lobby for health care and insurance interests.
"Keep in mind I worked there [the Legislature] for 15 years as counsel to Judiciary, Health, Constitutional Revisions, Highways, Banking and Insurance, Political Subdivisions, and moonlighted for Finance, so I have a rather broad field in which to play," she said.
Taylor and former deputy secretary Susan Perry filed a whistleblower suit against the DHHR last fall, contending they were unfairly and illegally disciplined and subsequently fired for raising concerns about possible improprieties in the awarding of a multimillion-dollar advertising contract. The suit is pending in Kanawha County Circuit Court.
Also Thursday, the commission: