CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The ongoing feud between West Virginia House of Delegates leadership and Attorney General Patrick Morrisey intensified Wednesday.
House Speaker Tim Miley, D-Harrison, called out Morrisey for snubbing an invitation to speak at a House Judiciary Committee meeting earlier this week. Instead, Morrisey privately met with the committee's GOP members, Miley said.
Morrisey opposes a House bill that targets him and stiffens ethics rules for his office.
"It is unfortunate that the attorney general did not attend the Judiciary Committee meeting during which House Bill 4490 was discussed, so that he could convey what he characterizes as deep concerns about the legislation," Miley said in a press release Wednesday.
Miley has asked Morrisey, a Republican, to show up and answer questions before the House Judiciary Committee at 9 a.m. today or Friday.
"Whenever legislation affecting a public office is considered by a committee, it is standard procedure for the officeholder to closely follow the bill's progress and attend committee meetings in order to answer members' questions," Miley said.
Also Wednesday, Miley released emails that show the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce's top lawyer submitted a draft bill last month that would set tighter ethics rules for Morrisey's office. The Chamber's general counsel, Brenda Harper, also recommended language to rein in Morrisey's ability to file "friend of the court" legal briefs without permission from the governor and Legislature.
The Jan. 24 emails were sent to Miley and Senate President Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall. The House bill under consideration incorporates many of the Chamber's specific suggestions.
On Wednesday morning, state Chamber President Steve Roberts sent an email to all House members opposing the attorney general ethics bill.
Reached late Wednesday night, Roberts said he hadn't seen Harper's draft bill and emails to Miley and Kessler until hours earlier in the day. Harper sent the draft bill to Miley in response to a request he made during the Chamber's "Business Summit" at The Greenbrier resort last summer, according to the emails.
"That wasn't an issue I knew anything about," Roberts said. "Obviously, I didn't know what she had said to him [Miley]. Those were her thoughts, not the official position of the Chamber."
Roberts said Harper no longer works for the Chamber. She resigned Friday, he said.
House Bill 4490 -- approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee and sent to the House floor earlier this week -- would bar the attorney general from overseeing lawsuits filed by his office against companies or individuals who contribute to his election campaign.
Under the bill, the attorney general also would have to step aside from a case, if he or an immediate family member received financial compensation or ever worked for a defendant. If a conflict exists, an outside lawyer would be appointed to oversee the case.
The proposed legislation follows Charleston Gazette reports that Morrisey accepted post-election campaign contributions from Cardinal Health, a company his office is suing. Morrisey's wife, Denise Henry, also is a longtime lobbyist for Cardinal Health in Washington, D.C.