Special Assistant AG says McGraw doing best for citizens

CHARLESTON - M. Eric Frankovitch thinks he understands where two companies suing the West Virginia Attorney General's office are coming from, even if he is part of that office now.

"I think they'd be real happy if nobody investigated this and looked into it," the Weirton attorney said.

What he's referring to are a pair of lawsuits recently filed against Attorney General Darrell McGraw in Kanawha Circuit Court by companies Leviton and Cooper Wiring Devices, who state that subpoenas sent to them should not be obeyed because McGraw unconstitutionally appointed Frankovitch and partner Michael Simon Special Assistant Attorneys General for the purpose of investigating the two companies.

Frankovitch and Simon had been leading a still-pending civil complaint in Marshall Circuit Court against Leviton and Cooper Wiring Devices regarding the safety of a certain type of electrical outlet.

When McGraw wanted the Attorney General's office to be involved, he looked to private attorneys Frankovitch and Simon to lead an investigation in the name of his office, something that didn't sit well with Leviton and Cooper Wiring.

"The West Virginia Attorney General's office doesn't have a huge staff to look into it," Frankovitch said. "If it didn't have the power to appoint people like myself, this matter wouldn't be investigated. I'm sure (Leviton and Cooper Wiring) would like that better than having someone go through and see what they're doing."

The Attorney General's Web site says his office consists of 69 lawyers and 99 support staff.

Frankovitch and Simon were appointed Jan. 27 in a letter signed by Deputy Attorney General Fran Hughes. They served subpoenas to Leviton and Cooper Wiring in February demanding to see safety-testing records.

Leviton and Cooper Wiring countered by filing complaints seeking a Declaratory Judgment that stated, among other things, "The purported appointments of attorneys Simon and Frankovitch as 'Special Assistant Attorneys General' are outside the scope of authority granted to the Attorney General by W. Va. Code," and "The subpoena issued to Leviton… is without legislative and constitutional authority, because Frankovitch and Simon's respective appointments as Special Assistant Attorneys General are otherwise void and invalid."

Leviton and Cooper Wiring also claim that Frankovitch and Simon can't be objective investigators because of the civil suit they represent and that their appointment is a drain on taxpayers' money.

Frankovitch, though, says he's not getting paid unless there's a settlement.

"(McGraw) doesn't pay us. We're not getting any money from him," Frankovitch said. "If we get any money in a lawsuit it'll be determined by the Circuit Court Judge, and that's only if there's recovery.

"The way we do these things if that only if a valid claim is there are we going to get paid. If we don't see a valid claim, we won't continue to pursue it. We're not going to be out there wasting our time and effort on something that's not legitimate."

Frankovitch feels that McGraw has acted in the best interest of West Virginia's consumers and the West Virginia Credit and Consumer Protection Act.

"The Attorney General's office knew about concerns about these devices," he said. "Ohio has, like, hundreds of Assistant Attorneys General. It's a bigger state, obviously, but it's nevertheless a huge department. Our Attorney General has very few, by comparison. The Attorney General couldn't possibly do everything he needs to, so he'll appoint those attorneys involved.

"A common goal is why the Attorney General and us are on the same page."

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