CHARLESTON – The former director of the West Virginia Lottery Commission has been admonished by the state Lawyer Disciplinary Board for continuing to practice law while serving the state.
Alan Larrick was appointed director of the lottery in January 2017 when Gov. Jim Justice took office. Before that, he had practiced law for 38 years in Beckley.
Last summer, Rob Cornelius filed a complaint with the LDB against Larrick, alleging he continued to operate his private law office while serving as lottery director. Statute says the lottery commissioner must serve on a full-time basis and is not permitted to engage in any other occupation.
After asking for extensions to file his response, Larrick resigned as lottery director effective Sept. 1, 2018. When he did file his response Sept. 14, Larrick noted his resignation and said the statutory prohibition no longer was applicable.
In an undated letter to Justice, Larrick said he would “engage the services of an attorney to manage the operation of my law practice.” In an April 9, 2017, letter, Justice’s then-Chief of Staff Nick Casey wrote that if “Larrick shall fail to comply with the requirements of this letter, he will be terminated as Director of the WV Lottery by the Governor’s Chief of Staff.”
Larrick said he hired attorney Justin Lester to work in his office.
“However, there is no factual dispute that respondent knowingly continued to engage in the private practice law,” Amy C. Crossan, chairwoman of the LDB’s Investigative Panel, wrote in the admonishment dated Dec. 3. “He acknowledged and admitted he regularly attended real estate closings and supervised the work of Mr. Lester at his law practice.”
The LDB said the matter was closed because there is no evidence to suggest Larrick used state resources in his private practice nor is there evidence showing any of his clients were prejudiced or limited by Larrick’s role as lottery director.
Larrick suggests Cornelius’ complaint was politically motivated. Cornelius has been a frequent critic of Justice, who switched parties from Democrat to Republican after he was elected. Cornelius is chairman of the Wood County Republican Executive Committee. This summer, state GOP Chairwoman Melody Potter sent a memo removing Cornelius as chairman of the Wood County GOP, saying he “has engaged in multiple acts of constant disunity.” She also named six new members to the Wood County GOP Executive Committee.
In August, Cornelius filed a complaint and petition for writ of mandamus against Potter and Secretary of State Mac Warner. Cornelius argues that Potter did not follow due process in removing him from his chairman position. He says he still is the elected chairman of the Wood County GOP Executive Committee and that the Secretary of State’s office should accept his roster instead of the one submitted by Potter.
But, the LDB says Cornelius’ motives are irrelevant to the Larrick matter.
“Respondent (Larrick) knowingly continued to engage in the private practice of law while serving and receiving a state-funded salary as the Director of the West Virginia Lottery Commission in violation of West Virginia Code,” Crossan wrote. “A lawyer ordinarily must decline or withdraw from representation if representation would be a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct or other law, such as the statutory prohibition as expressed in the code. …
“While respondent did resign from the position of Director of the West Virginia Lottery, it is no moment as he did so only after a formal complaint was filed with the Office of Disciplinary Counsel. However, respondent has been a member in good standing with the West Virginia State Bar for 40 years and has never received any sanction and that is heavily mitigating in his favor.”
When asked to comment on the matter, Cornelius was critical of Justice and others involved.
“It’s no shock to see a supposed star of the Justice Administration punished for ignoring the law,” Cornelius told The West Virginia Record. “What's worse is that Mr. Larrick even broke his written promise to fellow attorney Nick Casey and every West Virginian to make this situation right as soon as possible.
“As applies to our absentee governor, the work of running a multi-million dollar state agency well cannot be done from Beckley or Lewisburg. Not showing up seems to be a symptom of this incompetent team Justice has assembled. Mr. Larrick owes the taxpayers an apology for his failure to do this important job as prescribed in code.”
Larrick has 14 days from the Dec. 3 admonishment to object.
Lawyer Disciplinary Board case number 18-03-333