Company sues Morrisey over FOIA request

By Chris Dickerson | Oct 22, 2014

CHARLESTON – A Maryland marketing company is accusing West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey’s office of withholding requested public records.

AEGON Direct Marketing Services Inc., which is based in Baltimore, filed a lawsuit last month against Morrisey and his office in Kanawha Circuit Court, saying the AG’s office has improperly denied its right of access to the records under the state Freedom of Information Act.

In its complaint, AEGON says it requested public records from the AG’s office related to six companies, including itself. The six companies – including AEGON – are defendants in lawsuits filed by former AG Darrell McGraw in Mason Circuit Court just before he left office in 2012. Those suits allege the companies committed various violations of the West Virginia Consumer Credit and Protection Act.

In August, AEGON requested, among other things, “complaints or inquiries from any consumers involving one or more of the companies and relating to a product or service sold in connection with a credit card, and any related responses.”

In September, Special Assistant AG Troy Giatras responded by letter and by filing a Motion To Quash the request in the pending Mason County case (12-C-126-N).

“Please be advised that the plaintiff objects to this request as it is an attempt to circumvent the discovery process,” Giatras wrote in his reply.

AEGON says the AG’s office has failed to produce or identify any records in response to its request, has failed to say if a search of documents even occurred, has failed to say if any such documents exist, has not invoked any reason it could withhold such information and has not informed the company of its right to institute proceedings.

AEGON says the AG’s office is in violation of several state codes relating to Freedom of Information Act requests.

It asks the court to declare the AG’s office’s actions unlawful for not disclosing requested records and information and for “providing vague FOIA responses.” It also seeks an injunction allowing immediate access to requested information as well as injunctive relief forcing the AG’s office to not withhold public records without justification.

AEGON also seeks court costs, attorneys fees and other relief.

AEGON is being represented by Bruce M. Jacobs, James S. Crockett Jr and Dennise R. Smith of the Charleston office of Spilman Thomas & Battle. The case has been assigned to Circuit Judge Jennifer Bailey.

Kanawha Circuit Court case number: 14-C-1729

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