CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The dominoes are lining up ominously for Rocco Fucillo's tenure as acting secretary of the Department of Health and Human Resources.
First, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin did not include Fucillo's name on his list of appointees to be confirmed last week by the Senate. Second, the Legislature passed a bill authorizing a salary of up to $175,000 for the next DHHR secretary, up from the current $95,000.
(While that may be necessary to recruit someone with significant background academically or as a health-care industry executive, judging by phone calls, it didn't sit well with rank-and-file DHHR employees struggling to get by on small salaries with no raises in sight.)
Also, there's the release of an analysis of DHHR operations from the governor's office, which without having the opportunity to preview, I would expect is not too keen on the status quo.
Then, this week, Kanawha Circuit Judge Jim Stucky not only denied DHHR's motion to dismiss the whistleblower suit filed by Susan Perry and Jennifer Taylor, but signed off verbatim on a draft of the order written by their attorney, Walt Auvil, which basically states the facts of case are not in dispute -- and that the facts are clear both Perry and Taylor (along with ex-communications director John Law) were subject to retaliation and reprisal for raising concerns over the awarding of a multi-million dollar advertising contract. (In the case of Taylor and Law, the reprisals included being fired.)
Best part of the judge's order: In all references to a search warrant DHHR investigators obtained through the Kanawha prosecutor's office to search already secured offices inside the DHHR headquarters, "search warrant" is in quotation marks.
Rookies of the year for the 2013 legislative session: In the Senate, the nod goes to Sen. Donald Cookman, D-Hampshire, who as a retired circuit judge brought a wealth of knowledge about state law -- on several occasions, he helped fellow senators and staff counsel cite the proper sections of state code for their amendments.
His knowledge of the court system and criminal sentencing also proved invaluable as the Senate worked on the governor's bill to curb prison overcrowding through a system of early release and mandatory post-release supervision.
In the House, I'd pick Delegate Justin Marcum, D-Mingo. Granted, he did sponsor that goofy bill that would have made it a crime for state officials to enforce any new federal gun regulations, but he also did something I've never seen a freshman (or near-freshman; he was appointed in 2012) delegate do.
When his bill to make it illegal for grand jurors to tip off individuals (i.e. drug dealers) about pending criminal indictments (HB2498) was defeated in the Senate on a 9-25 vote -- the Senate voted it down after an eloquent but mostly spurious floor speech by Sen. Truman Chafin about how jurors could get arrested for engaging in dinner conversation with their spouses -- Marcum went to individual senators making his case for reconsideration of the bill. Ultimately, he got the bill passed, by a 31-3 margin.