Note to Morrisey: Focus on work, not McGraw

Patrick Morrisey, West Virginia’s new high-energy Attorney General, has been in office since January, but he and his office still seem caught up in election mode – still criticizing his predecessor Darrell McGraw’s practices at every turn.

The latest dustup came last week when McGraw’s new spokeswoman Beth Ryan – a talented journalist, most recently the editor at The State Journal in Charleston – employed Twitter to take a potshot at Fran Hughes, McGraw’s longtime deputy attorney general.

“Nice raise, Fran,” she tweeted. “Makes me wonder how many other state employees got a 17 percent pay raise that year. How convenient it happened right before she was retiring.”

GOP leaders across West Virginia quickly passed along Ryan’s words. But there was just one problem. According to state payroll records, there was no 17 percent raise for Hughes last year. Ryan apparently had looked at newly posted info on the State Auditor’s website to report that Hughes’ total compensation for the past year.

But that figure – $174,728 – included a $25,272 lump sum payment at the end of 2012 for Hughes’ unused annual leave accrued over more than two decades.

On Thursday, Ryan apologized and deleted the tweets. “I was wrong,” she told The Charleston Gazette when a reporter called to alert her to the mistake. “I feel bad. I didn’t do my research and fact-check, and I shouldn’t have been snarky.”

But Ryan’s snark seems akin to Morrisey’s continuing obsession with McGraw. Over the weekend as Morrisey spoke in Berkeley Springs at the annual Republican State Executive Committee luncheon, his comments again focused on how he’s ended McGraw’s “trinket show.”

He also vowed to use his power to thwart any federal regulations that he sees as overreach.

To Daryl Cowles, the Morgan County lawmaker who serves as House Minority Whip, this is stellar news. While McGraw made protecting West Virginia consumers his priority, Morrisey’s eye is on federal regulations. “I think it’s something the people of West Virginia are looking for,” Cowles told The Journal of Martinsburg.

Hughes, when reached by the Gazette and asked about Ryan’s slam, said she didn’t understand the continuing attacks, including Morrisey’s allegations in recent weeks that the attorney general’s office had been in shambles when he took over.

“Those people are obsessed with me and attacking us,” Hughes told the Gazette. “They won the election. Why won’t they turn their attention to what they should be doing, and that’s providing legal representation for state agencies?”

We agree.

Quit talking about McGraw’s “trinkets”; quit talking about McGraw period. Why not make your focus all the important work the office is charged with – including guarding West Virginians’ civil rights and consumer protections?

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