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Statehouse Beat: Lawyer is back on track

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Looks like Jennifer Taylor -- one of the three high-ranking Department of Health and Human Resources officials placed on months-long paid administrative leave and ultimately fired for raising issues about the awarding of a multimillion-dollar DHHR advertising contract -- has landed on her feet.

Not only has she opened a private law practice in Charleston, but got the OK last week from the state Ethics Commission to immediately register as a lobbyist -- without having to wait a year after leaving state government under the "revolving door" prohibition.

Considering that she worked as a legislative counsel for about 15 years prior to joining the DHHR, Taylor should be highly sought-after as a legislative lobbyist.

Meanwhile, the whistleblower suit Taylor and former DHHR deputy secretary Susan Perry filed against the DHHR is in the deposition stage, with indications that things aren't going well from the state's perspective.

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Speaking of, it came out in depositions in the whistleblower suit that Perry, who was fired in June, some four months after Taylor and DHHR spokesman John Law were let go, was terminated not by then-acting DHHR secretary Rocco Fucillo but by Tomblin legal counsel Peter Markham.

(Apparently, at the behest of incoming DHHR secretary <B>Karen Bowling<P>, who requested a clean slate coming in -- which included shipping Fucillo off to Fairmont with the nebulous title of "DHHR executive," and his current salary of $98,400.)

I'm advised that Perry was offered a legal counsel position at equal pay in another state agency and turned it down. However, it apparently made for a bit of awkwardness, since the Tomblins and Perry and her husband, Logan Circuit Judge Roger Perry, all attend First Presbyterian Church in Logan ...

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Regarding a recent column item about why it is so hard to recruit good candidates for statewide or congressional office, two-time gubernatorial candidate Bill Maloney sent a note saying, "Why would anyone ever run for office? -- I actually agree with you."

However, he added, "You are way off base with (Attorney General Patrick) Morrisey weakening consumer protection," regarding the reference to the long list of big business and big Pharma campaign contributors to Morrisey's campaign, who probably weren't interested in helping elect a strong consumer protection advocate.

Given the hiring this week of former Ethics Commission general counsel Maryclaire Akers as assistant attorney general for the Consumer Protection Division, I'll (temporarily) accede to Maloney's argument.

Talking with Akers after Thursday's commission meeting, she seemed genuinely committed to her new role of undertaking a prescription drug abuse initiative, having seen first-hand the impact of drug abuse in her previous job as a Kanawha County assistant prosecutor.

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Speaking of Morrisey, there's been a lot of conjecture about how much of a pay cut Yale Law grad and former U.S. Supreme Court clerk Elbert Lin took to leave the prestigious Washington law firm of Wiley Rein LLC to become Morrisey's solicitor general, at a salary of $132,000.

Cody Corliss provides a clue, forwarding a Washingtonian magazine article, "Hiring Supreme Court Clerks: The $500,000 Gamble."

The article states that hiring Supreme Court clerks is the ultimate status symbol for law firms that do appellate work, but with a class of only 39 each year, it says they don't come cheap:

"The signing bonus for clerks at major firms is $280,000. Most start at the third-year-associate level or higher, bringing their base salaries close to $200,000," the article states, explaining it's a half-million dollar gamble for the firms, since clerks tend to be intellectuals who often leave the firms to pursue careers in academia or government service.

It cites Lin as an example, and quotes him as saying he couldn't pass up the opportunity to "take on a significant leadership role" in West Virginia.

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Finally, state Democratic Executive Committee member (and coincidentally, attorney for Perry and Taylor in the whistleblower suit) Walt Auvil sent a letter to members of the party delegation that met with new EPA administrator Gina McCarthy, basically accusing them of acting like shortsighted Republicans in denying the science of climate change, and coal's impact thereon.

He got a response from new House Speaker Tim Miley, D-Harrison, stating in part:

"The coal industry is a source of enormous economic benefit to the state, its communities, and families who rely, in whole or in part, on the success of the coal industry. Those of us who have been elected by our peers (as well as our constituents) cannot simply ignore the impact that federal regulations will have on the industry and, of course, the state -- to do so is what I would define as shortsighted ...

"I'm quite surprised that members of the state Democratic Executive Committee who do not have any accountability for balancing our state's budget (and still find ways to maintain and fund "Democratic" programs) are quick to criticize those of us who do ... "

(Doesn't sound like the pro-Obama, anti-coal liberal that the state Republican Party has tried to portray Miley to be ... )

Reach Phil Kabler at philk@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1220. 


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