CHARLESTON – State Attorney General Patrick Morrisey on Monday unveiled his office’s ethics plan, which was part of his election campaign.
“As Attorney General, I intend to run our office with the highest ethical standards,” Morrisey said Feb. 11. “That means we will no longer use state settlement funds on trinkets and other materials which appear to have no purpose other than self-promotion.
“I ran on ethics reform as a central part of my campaign. And I think state government, as a whole, should hold itself to a higher standard when it comes to the use of West Virginians’ tax dollars. The era of taxpayer-funded self-promotion needs to end across all government.”
The first part of Morrisey’s package is to seek a Constitutional Amendment limiting the Attorney General to two consecutive terms in office.
He said even if that doesn’t come to fruition, Morrisey said he only would serve two terms.
Second, Morrisey said new policies will “rein in taxpayer-funded self-promotion.”
“In particular, I will ask the Legislature to replicate policies that I have established in the Office of Attorney General relating to trinkets and broad-based advertising during any election period.
Morrisey said his office will not purchase any trinket with his name on it.
At Monday’s press conference, several boxes of these trinkets -- including keychains, gun locks, pill boxes and magnets – adorned with former Attorney General Darrell McGraw’s name were spread across a table. Morrisey said his office is looking for ways to donate these items to a charitable cause so they don’t go to waste.
“We believe the inappropriate use of taxpayer money is no laughing matter,” he said. “These trinkets had no other purpose than to promote the officeholder. That is coming to an end.”
He also said he will propose legislation to keep the name or likeness of a public official from being used in any taxpayer-funded advertising during an election period.
Similarly, Morrisey said his name and likeness will not be used on constituent education materials from his office.
“The intent of these materials is to provide information to constituents, and not to produce thinly veiled campaign literature,” he said. “It’s less about me and more about the office.”
Morrisey also said he never would use a state-owned vehicle in parades or other similar events.
“If a challenger for public office must rely on a private vehicle to drive in a parade, so too should the Attorney General,” he said. “I will never use a state car in a parade.”
Morrisey also said his office is working to bring more transparency by seeking legislation to prohibit conflicts of interest in the distribution of public money to private entities.
“Specifically, I will ask for a one-year prohibition to prevent a state employee from performing compensated work for or assuming employment with an entity over which that employee exercised authority with respect to contracts or awards of any monies,” he said.
Also, Morrisey said he has instituted a policy in the AG’s office to start a competitive bidding process for outside counsel work.
“Far too often, West Virginia has garnered national criticism because of the state’s questionable practices concerning the use of outside counsel,” Morrisey said.
Morrisey said some might see these changes as a way to highlight the differences in his office with that of his predecessor McGraw, who was widely criticized for all of the abuse practices. But Morrisey said that isn’t the entire story.
“It’s more about putting taxpayer monies first,” he said. “This is just the beginning of a lot of changes we’re instituting. We slowly are dismantling the many incumbent self-protection devices.”