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Morrisey calls for audits of Legislature, agencies

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A day after House of Delegates leaders targeted Attorney General Patrick Morrisey's office with accountability reforms, Morrisey called for audits of state agencies and the Legislature.

"Indeed, we need to have more audits of the legislative body itself, and the process to award grant monies to entities," Morrisey said Monday during The Associated Press' Legislative Lookahead event in South Charleston. "The legislative and executive branch alike must not be immune from oversight and scrutiny."

On Sunday, House Speaker Tim Miley, D-Harrison, unveiled plans to spotlight accountability and ethics during the 2014 legislative session. Several measures targeted Morrisey's office, including a proposal that would require lawsuits to be assigned to outside attorneys if the attorney general has a conflict of interest.

Last year, Morrisey said he recused himself from two lawsuits filed by the office against drug companies. Morrisey's wife, Denise Henry, lobbies for the two companies, Cardinal Health and Sanofi. Morrisey is a former lobbyist for Sanofi.

Former Attorney General Darrell McGraw filed the lawsuits in 2012, and Morrisey, a Republican, inherited the cases after defeating McGraw in that year's election.

Miley also has proposed a separate accountability measure that would require all money received by Morrisey's office through lawsuit settlements go into the state General Revenue Fund to be appropriated by state lawmakers.

Speaking to reporters Monday, Morrisey said he has traveled to 33 West Virginia counties over the past year as part of a "listening tour." West Virginians are fed up with government waste, he said.

"People are sick and tired of this culture of corruption and utter lack of accountability that infests state government," Morrisey said. "People consistently talk to me about how they think that Charleston politicians take their money, and it seemingly goes down a black hole."

Morrisey cited an ongoing audit and allegations of mismanagement at the state Department of Agriculture as an example.

"We should not limit our focus to the Department of Agriculture," he said. "One of the biggest problems in state government today is we don't have enough transparency and systems in place to fight waste, fraud and abuse. I find it outrageous that ethical problems and mismanagement can be swept under the rug for many years."

Morrisey called on Miley to reform state agency auditing procedures.

"I think it's important that every major state agency, department, office, and constitutional office (attorney general, treasurer, secretary of state and governor), should have a much more regular review of its financial practices to ensure we aggressively reduce waste, fraud and abuse in state government," he said.

Morrisey said the audits should start "immediately" with reports due back to the Legislature by September "so the public has a full appreciation of all the fraud, waste and abuse in state government."

After completing those reviews, the Legislature should start "rolling audits" of state agencies, Morrisey said.

"I feel so passionately about this issue that I'm going to continue calling for these audits until the speaker and Legislature ultimately agrees," Morrisey said. "We desperately need more sunlight because it's clear too much has been buried for far too long."

The Legislative Auditor typically reviews state agencies on a rotating schedule. Morrisey said his staff members, who include investigators and former prosecutors, could assist state auditors.

"We have broad authorities to engage in these investigations, and we look forward to work with any interested parties to save money and root waste out of the system," Morrisey said. "Clearly, it's going to be a pretty busy year."

Reach Eric Eyre at ericeyre@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4869.


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