CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Cardinal Health, a drug company being sued by the state Attorney General's Office for allegedly shipping excessive quantities of pain pills to Southern West Virginia, removed former U.S. Sen. Carte Goodwin as its lawyer on the case last spring and hired two attorneys politically connected to Attorney General Patrick Morrisey.
One of Cardinal Health's new lawyers, Mark A. Carter, headed Morrisey's campaign transition team before the attorney general took office on Jan. 14.
The drug company's other lawyer, Henry Jernigan, contributed $500 to Morrisey's inaugural party fund in January and another $500 to Morrisey's campaign last September.
In June 2012, former attorney general Darrell McGraw filed a lawsuit against Cardinal Health, alleging the Ohio company helped fuel West Virginia's problem with prescription drug abuse. Morrisey, a Republican whose wife lobbies for Cardinal Health, defeated McGraw in the November election
On April 18, Cardinal Health discharged Goodwin, a Democrat who also served as chief counsel to former Gov. Joe Manchin, as the company's defense lawyer and replaced him with Carter and Jernigan, who work for the Dinsmore & Shohl law firm in Charleston, according to a filing submitted by Carter and Jernigan in Boone County Circuit Court.
In late November, Morrisey named Carter as co-chairman of his 26-member transition team "steering committee," a group set up to "offer perspectives on strategies and approaches for managing the West Virginia Attorney General's Office," according to Morrisey's news release at the time.
The following month, a Charleston accountant set up a fund to pay for Morrisey's inaugural party, calling it the "GOP Inauguration Committee."
Cardinal Health contributed $2,500 to Morrisey's inaugural fund in late February, a month after the inaugural ball, according to filings with the Secretary of State.
Morrisey's wife, Denise Henry, is a longtime lobbyist for Cardinal Health in Washington, D.C. The pain pill distributor paid her lobbying firm, Capitol Counsel, $400,000 last year, and another $100,000 during the first three months of this year, according to Henry's lobbying disclosure forms.
Capitol Counsel, which Henry owns, gave $5,000 to Morrisey's inauguration committee, according to financial reports filed at the Secretary of State's Office.
Carter gave $500 to Morrisey's campaign in September and $75 to the attorney general's inaugural party fund in January, records show.
Morrisey has said he recused himself from the Cardinal Health case when he took office in mid-January. Morrisey said his chief deputy, Dan Greear, has managed the lawsuit ever since. McGraw's former chief deputy, Fran Hughes, managed the case for McGraw.
In a Gazette-Mail report last week, Morrisey alleged that McGraw spoke to him about the Cardinal Health lawsuit during a campaign stop last year and that McGraw "implied" that he filed the lawsuit against the drug company to retaliate against Morrisey.
McGraw said he never spoke to Morrisey about the Cardinal Health case.