Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

WV State News

June 19, 2014

West Virginia whistleblower lawsuit dismissed

CHARLESTON — A lawsuit filed by two former Department of Health and Human Resources employees for raising concerns about an advertising contract has been dismissed.

Kanawha County Circuit Judge Jim Stucky granted the DHHR’s motion for summary judgment last week.

Former DHHR deputy secretary Susan Perry and former general counsel Jennifer Taylor filed a whistleblower lawsuit against the DHHR in 2012.

Taylor, Perry and former DHHR spokesman John Law were reassigned in July 2012 after they objected to the handling of a six-figure advertising contract. They were eventually fired.

Stucky said in his dismissal order that Taylor and Perry were never asked to conduct a legal review and “were engaged in wrongful conduct” when they intervened in the contract. The order said the pair were acting on orders from Law.

The trio raised concerns about how others at the department scored the technical merits of bids from four vendors. That scoring allowed Ohio-based Fahlgren Mortine to win the ad contract, though it had filed the highest bid at $473,000. While signed for one year, the contract can be extended and its value can increase if other agencies piggyback on the services it provides.  

“Simply, the legal review was not an authorized procedure under the rules and regulations,” Chuck Bailey, an attorney for the state, told The Charleston Gazette. “We investigated this very thoroughly.”

Bailey said an administrative procedure manual stipulates any deviation must be approved by state purchasing director David Tincher, “and Tincher was never asked.”

Walt Auvil, an attorney for Perry and Taylor, declined comment about the case.

Perry, a former family law master, was appointed by state Supreme Court Chief Justice Robin Davis last week to temporarily serve as a Mingo County family court judge. She replaced Miki Thompson, who was appointed circuit judge.

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