Attorney General Morrisey Unveils Plan to Fight Government Corruption, Substance Abuse in West Virginia
CHARLESTON — Attorney General Patrick Morrisey recently unveiled initiatives his office plans to undertake to address government corruption and tackle the plague of substance abuse in the state.
Morrisey unveiled his proposals at the Jan. 6 Legislative Lookahead with members of the media sponsored by the Associated Press and the West Virginia Press Association. Specifically Morrisey called on House Speaker Tim Miley, D-Harrison, to immediately undertake a series of audits of every major state agency, department and constitutional office, as well as the Legislature, to uncover instances of waste, fraud and governmental abuse.
“I believe elected leaders need to take an aggressive stand and finally end the cycle of corruption that has plagued our state for too long,” Attorney General Morrisey said. “One of the key takeaways from town hall meetings I have hosted throughout the state is that West Virginians — be they in the Eastern Panhandle, the Northern Panhandle, the Ohio River Valley, north-central West Virginia, southern West Virginia or other areas of the state — are sick and tired of the culture of corruption and utter lack of accountability that infects state government.”
Morrisey said when he was elected in 2012, he immediately called for an audit of the Attorney General’s Office. The first part of the audit, which was released in June, highlighted highly irregular and problematic practices that were in place prior to the change in administration. The second phase of the audit will be released later this year.
“I am open to an audit of our processes because I believe it restores confidence and ethics in government,” Morrisey said. “We also need to have more audits of legislative spending itself and the process used to award grant money to entities. I believe neither the legislative nor the executive branch should be immune from oversight and scrutiny.”
Morrisey also unveiled preliminary steps the Attorney General’s Office plans to take to help the state address the problem of substance abuse. Last year, the Office launched its first-ever drug task force to look at efforts currently underway in the state to battle drug abuse and see if there were ways for the Office to lend its skills, resources and tools to help in the fight. Additional proposals will be coming soon.
"As you know, West Virginia has the highest rate of drug overdose deaths in the nation, and that rate has increased six-fold in the past decade,” he said. “That is a tragic statistic that must be addressed with vigor. Each overdose death is a life that has been snuffed out because of addiction, and our Office wants to do our part to ensure those deaths were not in vain. Fighting drug abuse cannot be a partisan issue. Both sides of the political spectrum need to come together to take steps to curb this dreadful statistic.”
Morrisey said one way to deal with the drug epidemic is to ensure people have a safe and secure way to dispose of unused or unwanted pharmaceuticals. So the Office, partnering with the Public Health Trust Fund, is working to place drug drop off boxes in counties and communities where local law enforcement has said there is a need.
The Office also will work with the Legislature to limit the amount of pseudoephedrine that legally may be purchased by an individual to 24 grams per year. Currently the limit is 48 grams per year, but if the limit were to be cut in half, West Virginia would have one of the most stringent limits in the nation. Morrisey said he also will advocate for lawmakers to establish a “meth offender registry,” which will enable law enforcement to more easily track known offenders.
The Attorney General’s Office also is advocating that the Legislature pass a bill that would make it illegal to engage in smurfing, or the purchasing of large quantities of pseudoephedrine by several people working for the same cook. If lawmakers pass that law, the Office would then work with the Legislature to organize a state-wide anti-smurfing campaign to educate the public about the dangers of smurfing.
“Our Office is committed to doing everything within our power to help battle this plague,” Morrisey said. “We plan to work with the Legislature and other state attorneys general to make sure the approach is broad-based and makes it harder for people to abuse drugs and easier for them to seek treatment. We will unveil more steps we hope to take in our substance abuse initiatives in the near future. One thing is certain: We cannot turn a blind eye to this problem or leave the responsibility for addressing this crisis to others. Everyone in the state must work together to make West Virginia clean, sober and healthy.”