Taxpayers Have Right to Know

In July, three high-ranking officials at the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources were kicked out of their offices and told to work at home, amid questions over a DHHR contract awarded to the high bidder.

Mountain State residents still are waiting for an explanation. To date, taxpayers have shelled out more than $80,000 in payments to the three, who remain on “administrative reassignment.”

Those sent home were DHHR Assistant Secretary John Law, General Counsel Jennifer Taylor and Deputy Secretary for Legal Affairs Susan Perry. The latter two have filed lawsuits alleging they were retaliated against for raising questions about the agency’s awarding of a marketing contract valued at an estimated $3.5 million. It went to an Ohio company that submitted the highest of four bids for the work.

Weeks after the reassignments, the DHHR obtained a search warrant seeking information from office records, e-mail accounts and cellular telephones used by Law, Perry and Taylor. The warrant accused them of illegally interfering with awarding of the marketing contract.

Yet none of the three has been accused formally of any crime.

What on earth is going on, here? DHHR acting Secretary Rocco Fucillo and other officials refuse to talk about the controversy. Yet they continue to extend the reassignments, which amount to paid suspensions.

If Law, Perry and Taylor were guilty of wrongdoing, they ought to be prosecuted – not paid to stay home. But if they were merely making honest attempts to prevent the DHHR from an error in awarding the contract, they should be welcomed back to the office and an investigation of the bid process should be launched.

But more than four months after the three were shown the door at the DHHR, Mountain State residents have no more idea of which scenario is the truth than they did in the beginning.

Taxpayers may have to wait until trials on the Perry and Taylor lawsuits before learning the facts behind the controversy. That should prompt West Virginians to ask a question in addition to “what happened?” It is why the DHHR is so reluctant to let the public hear its side of the story.

Does the agency have something to hide?

Whatever the situation, taxpayers have a right to know more about it.