DHHR Secrecy Not In Public’s Interest

After nearly five months at home while still receiving paychecks, two high-ranking officials at the W.Va. Department of Health and Human Resources were back in the office last week – sort of.

Susan Perry, the agency’s deputy secretary for legal affairs, and Jennifer Taylor, the DHHR general counsel, were put on “reassignment” in July. So was Assistant Secretary John Law. The three were told to stay out of the DHHR offices, because of a dispute concerning a marketing contract awarded by the agency. It went to the high bidder for the work.

Last week, Perry and Taylor were told they could return to work – but were instructed to stay out of their own offices and not deal with certain DHHR matters. Law remained on paid “reassignment.”

West Virginians whose tax dollars pay for the DHHR still don’t know what’s going on. We know the three raised concerns about the marketing contract. We know there have been accusations they interfered improperly with it. And we know Perry and Taylor have filed “whistleblower” lawsuits against the state.

That’s it. And DHHR officials have said they do not intend to make results of their investigation of the matter public.

That is unacceptable. So is the prospect the two lawsuits will be gotten rid of through secret settlements, with the public paying but not learning details of this fiasco.

West Virginians have paid for the right to know whether the three DHHR officials had valid concerns or interfered improperly with the marketing contract. If no one else will insist on that information, legislators should do so.