Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Editorials

March 20, 2006

Answers, accountability — McGraw must explain settlement process

West Virginia’s Attorney General, Darrell McGraw, continues to evade the issue of why his office decided not to structure a consumer action settlement agreement so that the bulk of $10 million in lawsuit funds would go back to the state agencies for whom he served as legal counsel. Attorney General McGraw has avoided answering this question when asked by state legislators and the media, and, his office questions the motives of those asking these questions.

His unwillingness to discuss this issue has prompted legislators from both parties to call for legislation that would provide greater legislative oversight of and limit the discretionary powers of the West Virginia Attorney General’s Office. Several lawmakers have stated that the Attorney General is exceeding his constitutional authority.

The outcry centers on a $10 million settlement of a lawsuit filed in 2001 on behalf the West Virginia Department of Health & Human Resources, the Public Employees Insurance Agency and the West Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission (now BrickStreet). Lawmakers argue that disbursement of the OxyContin settlement dollars should not be subject to the sole discretion of the Attorney General.

Recently, Attorney General McGraw decided to provide selective grants from these settlement dollars to various entities, including $500,000 to the University of Charleston and $200,000 to WVU’s Research Foundation. In addition, more than $3 million of this money is going to a handful of outside plaintiff law firms. However, the biggest objection seems to involve the fact that none of these dollars is going back to the agencies that filed the lawsuit.

McGraw’s failure not to structure these settlement dollars to go to these state agencies is unfathomable. Although the lawsuit was filed on behalf of these agencies, it appears that none of the settlement dollars is going back to them. Since they were the clients, how come they are not having a say in how these settlement funds are used?

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