We were glad to see Fran Hughes, the right hand of West Virginia Attorney General Darrell McGraw, finally called on the people's carpet earlier this month.
And against the office of an egomaniac state official who sees them inconsequential, it was encouraging to hear members of our esteemed state Senate once and finally standing up for themselves. But mere talk won't wash away the sins of McGraw and his senior staff, who have systematically -- but without authority -- spent millions of tax dollars on self-serving crusades and publicity projects.
In fact, the scattered, inconsistent public explanation Ms. Hughes gave the Senate for their office's actions practically begs for a larger state and/or federal investigation.
Why on earth did she and Mr. McGraw feel they could unilaterally spend the $10 million they reaped from settling a state lawsuit against drug maker Purdue Pharma?
Why did they think they could shell out millions to their pal lawyers, then $500,000 to help start a pharmacy school at University of Charleston, without getting permission?
And how could they justify stiffing the state agency they were purporting to represent -- the Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) -- which McGraw claimed was "defrauded" into buying bad painkillers?
"We have arranged a methodology that has prevented the federal government from coming back and seizing the money," Hughes explained.
Get that? Many of those DHHR-purchased "fraudulent" painkillers were bought with federally granted Medicaid funds. It wasn't West Virginia's money to begin with.
So according to Hughes, it was all a scheme -- the $3 million-plus in legal fees, the pharmacy school, everything -- to deny Uncle Sam. Or defraud it, one might say, depending upon where they sit.
As a parting gift, Ms. Hughes promised the Senate that the AG's will never, ever do it again. That's plenty explanation, perhaps, for a usually straight-and-narrow teen caught out past curfew. But for a state official accused of casually abusing the public trust, hollow after-the-fact pandering shouldn't suffice.
McGraw's office has promised the Senate a penny-by-penny accounting of the $10 million Purdue Pharma gave West Virginians and where it has gone. We look forward to that, en route to real consequences for the real actions of our Attorney General's office.
In a government with authority and integrity, such deeds aren't cured by tongue-lashing, and cannot go unpunished.