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Money and Politics in West Virginia

Trouble in Berkeley Springs

by RUSSELL MOKHIBER

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey came to Berkeley Springs this week as part of his statewide listening tour. It was billed as a town hall meeting. Morrisey said he wanted to hear from citizens about whatever was on their minds.

But when one citizen raised the issue of money in politics and Morrisey’s connection to a healthcare services company, Morrisey responded by saying that it was merely one person “trying to cause trouble” and that there was “one newspaper down in Charleston that has been saying a lot of things that aren’t true.”

The issue involves Cardinal Health, a Fortune 500 healthcare services company based in Dublin, Ohio.

Morrisey’s wife, Denise Henry, is a lobbyist for the company.

Morrisey’s campaign took $4,000 from Cardinal Health executives during his campaign last year.

And a Cardinal Health political action committee donated $2,500 to Morrisey’s inaugural ball, according to the Charleston Gazette.

Before becoming Attorney General, Morrisey lobbied for the Healthcare Distribution Management Association, a trade group that represents Cardinal Health.

Last year, Morrisey’s predecessor, Darrell McGraw, sued Cardinal Health, alleging that the company helped fuel West Virginia’s prescription drug abuse epidemic by not implementing “adequate safeguards to prevent prescription drugs which it distributed from being unlawfully diverted, despite warnings from internal investigators.”

Morrisey inherited the case when he became Attorney General in January.

Morrisey issued a statement in July saying that he had recused himself from the Cardinal Health litigation.

“Earlier this year, I recused myself from the litigation as it pertains to Cardinal Health,” Morrisey said in the statement. “My chief counsel, Dan Greear, has been managing the special assistant Attorneys General assigned to this matter since the beginning of the year.”

But a Boone County Courthouse Clerk’s office spokesperson said today that there is no record in the court docket that Morrisey has withdrawn or recused himself from the Cardinal Health litigation.

And the Gazette reported in October that despite the “recusal,” Morrisey held a meeting with Cardinal Health executives and the company’s lawyer about the lawsuit in May and fielded correspondence about the case in late June.

The defense lawyer for Cardinal Health in the pill distribution case?

Mark A. Carter, a partner at Dinsmore & Shohl. Carter headed Morrisey’s campaign transition team before the Attorney General took office on January 14.

Last night, Morrisey was asked when he recused himself from the Cardinal Health case.

“Earlier this year, I stepped aside from a number of cases because I thought it was the right thing to do,” Morrisey said.

“When did you recuse yourself?” Morrisey was asked.

“Well, I actually haven’t been involved overseeing the case from the beginning of the year,” Morrisey said.

“When did you recuse yourself?” Morrisey was asked again.

“I said — I haven’t been involved,” Morrisey said.

“But you said you recused yourself. When exactly did you recuse yourself?” Morrisey was asked again.

“I said — I have not been involved in the case from the beginning of the year,” Morrisey said. “I have not been involved in any of the day to day oversight. I never met with the outside counsel on this.”

“What we have here — this is an effort to try to cause trouble and to try to create different issues where none exist,” Morrisey said. “I wasn’t required to recuse from this matter. You had one newspaper and another gentleman trying to continually make this an issue.”

After the town hall meeting was concluded, Morrisey was asked if there was any documentation of his recusal or withdrawal. He said there wasn’t. But Morrisey also said that he couldn’t reveal attorney/client confidential information.

Russell Mokhiber edits Morgan County, USA.