CHARLESTON – A Democratic political group has filed a lawsuit claiming state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey’s office has failed to provide public records about its dealing with several drug companies.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee filed a complaint Oct. 15 in Kanawha Circuit Court naming the AG’s office and Morrisey as the defendants.
The DSCC says it requested documents on Oct. 17, 2017, from the AG’s office about correspondence between the office and major pharmaceutical companies such as Cardinal Health. Many place blame with Cardinal Health for the state’s opioid crisis, and Morrisey’s wife’s law firm has lobbied in Washington, D.C., for Cardinal Health. Morrisey and his former D.C. firm also lobbied for drug companies.
The DSCC accuses the AG’s office of purposely being slow to answer its Freedom of Information Act requests and says the office has “a well-documented history of doing so in response to requests for information pertaining to his relationship and correspondence with Cardinal Health.”
The DSCC says Morrisey’s office has missed three self-imposed deadlines to provide the requested information.
“If Morrisey has nothing to hide, voters across West Virginia are right to wonder why he fought to keep these records hidden for nearly a year,” DSCC spokesman David Bergstein told The West Virginia Record. “What’s the former opioid lobbyist hiding?
“We will use every legal tool we can to help voters know the facts about Morrisey’s record and any ongoing relationship he may have with the company at the center of West Virginia’s drug epidemic.”
The DSCC said it requested the information shortly after Morrisey, a Republican, announced plans to run for the U.S. Senate. He faces Democrat Joe Manchin in the Nov. 6 general election.
The DSCC complaint says Morrisey and his office are “abdicating their duties under FOIA and engaging in groundless delay tactics meant to ensure that no one, not plaintiff or the voters of West Virginia, have a full picture of Attorney General, and U.S. Senate candidate, Morrisey’s actions in office before going to the polls.”
Curtis Johnson, the spokesman for the AG’s office, called the lawsuit political.
“Our office has already provided the plaintiff with significant information responsive to this inquiry and continues to sift through many tens of thousands of documents in an effort to lawfully comply with a massive request that amounts to nothing more than an effort to secure a political hit,” he told The Record. “The Attorney General’s Office has long been and remains a strong advocate of FOIA.
“Our office goes to great lengths to advance open, transparent government and has never lost a FOIA case specifically filed against the Office of the Attorney General.”
The AG's office has posted a Request for Proposal seeking outside counsel to handle the case.
The DSCC is being represented by Anthony Majestro of the Charleston law firm of Powell & Majestro. The case has been assigned to Circuit Judge Carrie Webster.
Kanawha Circuit Court 18-C-1307