Newspaper Sues AG for Records, Emails

CHARLESTON, W. Va. (CN) - The Charleston Gazette sued West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey for records on his connection to a lawsuit against Morrisey donor Cardinal Health, which was filed by his predecessor, Attorney General Darrell V. McGraw.
     The newspaper sued Morrisey in his official capacity, in Kanawha County Court. They are the only parties to the lawsuit.
     Cardinal Health, the nation's second-largest drug distributor, contributed $2,500 to Morrisey's January 2014 inaugural ball, and Capitol Counseling LLC, a D.C. lobbying firm in which Morrisey's wife is a partner, and which provides lobbying services to Cardinal, donated $5,000 to the inaugural fund.
     The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency in December 2007 issued an Immediate Suspension Order (ISO) against Cardinal Health and fined it $34 million for failing to notice excessive orders for the narcotic hydrocodone by rogue Internet pharmacies.
     The Gazette's lawsuit claims that in February 2012, Cardinal Health was issued another ISO for failing to maintain effective controls against diversion of controlled substances and distributing more than 12 million doses to four area pharmacies.
     In June 2012, Morrisey's predecessor McGraw filed a lawsuit on behalf of the State of West Virginia against Cardinal Health, in what became known as the "Boone County Pill Mill" case. McGraw claimed that Cardinal Health benefited from the state's prescription-drug addiction problem and capitalized on the opportunity to monopolize on the Mountain State's trade in prescription drugs.
     On July 22 this year, the Gazette inquired about Morrisey's potential conflict of interest in the Boone County Pill Mill case.
     Morrisey responded on July 24 in a statement: "During the campaign, my predecessor implied to me at a campaign stop that he had brought suit against Cardinal Health, in retaliation for the fact that I was running against him. While McGraw's statements disturbed me greatly and lead me to believe that as least some part of that case was politically motivated, after I took office I decided that, notwithstanding McGraw's comments, West Virginians deserved the case to be decided on the merits. While not required under the law, because of McGraw's ethically problematic comments, earlier this year, I recused myself from the litigation as it pertains to Cardinal Health. My chief counsel, Dan Greear, has been managing the special assistant attorneys general assigned to this matter since the beginning of the year."
     The Gazette then asked for copies of all records dealing with Morrisey's recusal, and on what date it happened.
     Morrisey's Deputy Attorney General J. Robert Leslie wrote the Gazette this month that no such records existed, but that his recusal was transmitted orally.
     The Gazette claims the attorney general is stonewalling. It claims that Deputy Attorney General Leslie responded to its request for emails to and from Morrisey concerning the case against Cardinal Health by wrongly asserting that "any emails you have requested, if they exist, would be exempt from disclosure pursuant to the attorney client privilege, the work product doctrine, the deliberative process, and/or the statutory exemptions provided under the West Virginia code."
     The Gazette claims that response is so vague that the newspaper cannot be sure that a thorough search for such records took place, that AG failed to acknowledge the existence of such records, and wrongly insisted that any such records would be exempt from disclosure under FOIA.
     The newspaper wants to see the records.
     It is represented by Patrick McGinley, of Morgantown.