It's an annual tradition in constitutional republics like ours: elected representatives gather and hold hearings to publicly scrutinize spending of our tax dollars before starting to shell them out.
Except when it comes to West Virginia and its regal Attorney General, Darrell McGraw.
He doesn't get grilled by lawmakers. McGraw grills them.
Earlier this week in Charleston for the second year running, members of West Virginia's State Senate Finance Committee got grilled and served up by McGraw.
McGraw appeared before the committee Wednesday, ostensibly to get their approval for his plan to spend taxpayer money running the Attorney General's office in 2008.
We don't mean to sound naive. Darrell McGraw doesn't ask for approval. He gets approval.
Paying homage to West Virginia's bizzaro system of checks-and-balances, Committee Chair Sen. Walt Helmick and the others seemed unfazed by the fiscal affairs of their pseudo-governor.
Did they demand answers to obvious questions about his office's seemingly unauthorized activities and the millions of dollars West Virginia taxpayers may have to pay back? No.
Did they insist that McGraw come up with the funds to fill the $4.1 million state budget hole he created? No.
It appeared they didn't want to upset or make him uncomfortable -- at least while he was sitting there, right in front of them.
From his perspective, those pesky budget problems aren't his to solve.
"The burden is back on the Legislature," McGraw demurred.
Last February, you might remember, McGraw sent his trusted deputy, Fran Hughes, to explain how his office -- not the Legislature or anyone else -- decides who gets the millions of dollars from lawsuit settlements brought by the state.
She at least paid lip service to questioners, even promising Helmick that the AG would stop dispersing settlement funds without prior approval. "(It) is not going to repeat itself in the future," she insisted.
But it did repeat itself just a few weeks later. Hughes shrugged her shoulders in response. The Senate is yet to demand to know why.
This time Mr. McGraw didn't promise anything to the Senators. Why should he?
McGraw doesn't make promises to us. The legislature promises to bow to his wishes, it seems.
We can think of a few 2008 promises that West Virginia voters should want to make and keep.