CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey declined repeated invitations to speak before a Kanawha County substance abuse task force this fall, even though Morrisey has made the state's prescription drug problem a top priority for his office's Consumer Protection Division.
Dr. Dan Foster, the task force's chairman, said he called Morrisey's representatives several times over the past three months, inviting Morrisey to speak before the panel, which met five times.
On Oct. 20, Foster sent a written invitation to Morrisey. Foster offered to change the date of the panel's last meeting to accommodate Morrisey's schedule. But Morrisey's administrative assistant informed Foster that Morrisey wouldn't be available, Foster said.
"We felt it would be helpful to hear about what he's doing on substance abuse, and get his ideas and recommendations," Foster said. "We wanted to be flexible because of his schedule. I'm not sure what else I can do."
Morrisey, a former Washington, D.C. lobbyist for companies that manufacture and distribute prescription and over-the-counter drugs, did not respond to a request for comment last week.
On Thursday, the Kanawha County Commission's Substance Abuse Task Force voted on final recommendations to the state Legislature. Morrisey's designee to the task force, Maryclaire Akers, did not attend the meeting. Akers attended the panel's four previous meetings.
Since September, more than a dozen people -- law enforcement authorities, drug policy experts and prosecutors -- have given sworn testimony to the panel.
Foster said he invited Morrisey to speak because the attorney general has set up his own internal task force to combat prescription drug abuse. The five-member group -- housed within the attorney general's Consumer Protection Division - includes former investigators and prosecutors.
In his Oct. 20 letter inviting Morrisey to speak before the Kanawha substance abuse panel, Foster wrote, "...it would be very important to the mission of our group to hear from you regarding your priorities and recommendations for getting our arms around this terrible problem."
"Our desire was expressed for him to present at one of our meetings," Foster said last week. "We felt it would bolster our efforts to come up with recommendations."
In previous statements, Morrisey has said his office's drug task force also will increase public awareness about the dangers of prescription drug abuse.
In a September press release, Morrisey said drug abuse was a "top personal priority."
The attorney general announced he would unveil "a number of detailed initiatives to tackle substance abuse" over the "next several months." He has yet to disclose those initiatives.
However, he continues to post messages on his Facebook and Twitter accounts about drug abuse.
On Tuesday, he commented on his Facebook page: "Fight drug abuse! Shouldn't this be a top consumer protection priority? I think so."