McCollum and McGraw: light versus dark

By The West Virginia Record | Apr 23, 2010

Count Dracula never could live in Florida, not even in retirement. There's too much sunshine there, literally and figuratively.

Darrell McGraw, a creature who prefers the shadows, likewise would loathe the light of Florida.

That's because the sun in the sunshine state shines not only on its sandy, white beaches, but into the offices of the state attorney general as well.

Unlike McGraw, Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum long has maintained policies of transparency and accountability in his office. Recently, Gov. Charlie Crist signed a bill enshrining those policies in law. The Transparency in Private Attorney Contracting Act codifies McCollum's guidelines for the awarding of contingency fee contracts by the Attorney General's Office to outside legal counsel –- with fees based on a tier system, capped at $50 million, and details of contracts available to the public.

While McCollum was letting the sun shine into the state attorney general's office in Florida, McGraw was pulling down the blinds, drawing the curtains, and boarding up the windows here in West Virginia. Instead of transparency and accountability, his tenure as attorney general has been marked by secrecy and indifference to the people and our representatives.

For McCollum, the office of attorney general is a position of public trust; for McGraw, it's a sinecure for self-aggrandizement.

Sunshine laws are proposed periodically in our Legislature, but never get passed. Were it not for the information light shined by The West Virginia Record, the machinations of McGraw would remain shrouded.

Thanks to our reporting, the people of West Virginia know how McGraw hands out plum contingency contracts to his lawyer cronies and empowers them to go after the ever-decreasing number of companies doing business in our state. While cronies shower him with campaign contributions, McGraw takes the remainder of the settlements and disburses the proceeds like a dictator prince.

West Virginia should be a sunshine state like Florida, but thanks to Darrell McGraw and others of his ilk, it remains a state of shadows and darkness.

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