Ensure Probe Is Thorough

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin called Wednesday for a “speedy and responsible” resolution to an investigation that has raised serious questions about the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources.

Lots of luck with that, governor. The case has more twists and turns than W.Va. 88 between Wheeling and West Liberty.

If you’ve misplaced your scorecard – and you’ll need one to keep track of what has happened – here is a brief synopsis of events to date:

Earlier this summer the DHHR awarded a $473,000 marketing contract to an Ohio company, despite the fact it submitted the highest of three or four bids for the work. The state Division of Purchasing and another reviewer outside the DHHR later reviewed the process and came to the conclusion it was proper. It was noted cost was only 30 percent of the criteria used to evaluate bidders.

But three high-ranking DHHR employees, attorneys Susan Perry and Jennifer Taylor and agency communications chief John Law, expressed concern about the Ohio company winning the contract, particularly because two in-state firms lost. They made their worries known all the way to the governor’s office. Again, outside reviews concluded the contract was awarded properly.

After the three officials began raising a stink about the matter, DHHR acting secretary Rocco Fucillo disciplined them – by suspending them with pay.

A few days ago two of the three revealed they are planning to sue the state over how they have been treated.

But it turns out the three who apparently wanted an investigation now are under investigation. There have been allegations that far from trying to prevent improprieties in awarding a contract, they were trying to influence the process in an unacceptable manner.

And, of course, there are political undertones. One reason Tomblin may want a quick resolution to the investigation is that it could affect his chances of being re-elected.

Obviously, the case should be resolved, one way or another, as quickly as possible. But whether that can be done before the Nov. 6 election is uncertain, to say the least.

Much more important than learning whodunit quickly is ensuring the situation is investigated thoroughly. It may be that three officials were in the wrong – or it may be that they were simply very energetic, perceiving themselves as whistleblowers, in questioning their agency.

Yes, speed is important in resolving the matter. But no stone should be left unturned to ensure West Virginians can have confidence in state government.