Manchin

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Hughes

CHARLESTON -- A months-long federal investigation into former Gov. Joe Manchin's administration has reportedly cost the state more than $60,000.

According to the Charleston Daily Mail, the investigation -- which allegedly targeted the state Department of Highways and Larry Puccio, Manchin's former chief of staff, among others -- has concluded. It cost a total of $60,704.52, the Daily Mail reported.

The probe, conducted by the FBI and IRS, reportedly included a multi-million dollar road that runs through Fairmont.

A DOH source told a Charleston television station last year that the subpoenas it received were broad, but the Fairmont Gateway in Marion County was one of the targets. The $150 million road has been under construction for several years and connects Interstate 79 to Fairmont, the now-U.S. senator's hometown.

Puccio, current chair of the state's Democratic Party, also runs a real estate business in the city. Puccio was reportedly part of the probe.

At the time, Manchin said he could not comment on the investigation and said he didn't know if Puccio was a target.

Those close to the federal probe also remained quiet, including the state Attorney General's Office.

The office refused to release any information about the subpoenas issued to state agencies, including the highways department and the state's Office of Administration, despite media law experts saying the Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, requires the attorney general to release the information.

Special Assistant Attorney General Dwane Tinsley -- a Charleston lawyer hired by Attorney General Darrell McGraw to assist in the case -- declined to release the contents of the subpoenas. He cited federal rules that govern criminal proceedings.

"The statute which specifically exempts disclosure in this instance is Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 6(e), which prohibits government attorneys and others from '(disclosing) a matter occurring before the grand jury.'"

But media law experts argued that the exemption for "government attorneys" is for U.S. Attorneys who are part of the investigation, not defense attorneys.

Some believe the attorney general's office was simply stonewalling the media and the public's right to know.

According to the Daily Mail, invoices from October 2010 through late March show two assistants worked with Tinsley on the case.

Tinsley told the newspaper Monday that he thought he was billing the state $225 an hour for his work. His assistants, he said, billed less.

Chief Deputy Attorney General Fran Hughes told the Daily Mail that having someone else -- outside of the state Attorney General's Office -- help with the investigation was necessary to maintain "a totally hands-off approach."

At the time, Manchin was in the middle of a campaign for the late Robert Byrd's U.S. Senate seat.




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