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Kanawha Prosecutor Plants will not prosecute in DHHR case

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Kanawha County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Plants announced Jan. 28 that he will not initiate prosecution in an investigation into the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources regarding three state employees and the award of a contract.

Plants said his office has completed its review of the investigation report made by the WVDHHR Inspector General, and he refers the matter "to the responsible state authorities to take such administrative sanctions as they deem appropriate."

Three DHHR officials — John Law, Susan Perry and Jennifer Taylor — were placed on leave in July without much explanation. That same month, DHHR awarded its advertising contract to Ohio-based Fahlgren Mortine, which edged out the contract's previous holder, the Arnold Agency.

Parkersburg Attorney Walt Auvil notified the state in September that the three planned to file a whistleblower lawsuit because of the contract dispute, claiming that they tried to prevent an illegal award of the contract.

A warrant request submitted shortly thereafter requested the officials' office, phone and computer records, alleging that the three tried to overrule the bid process.

"While there appears to have been violations of internal policy and the exercise of bad judgment, the three employees did not attempt to hide their actions, and there is no evidence they intended to commit a crime," Plants said in a news release. "Because there is no criminal intent, there is insufficient evidence to prosecute any violation of criminal law."

Plants said the outcome of the bid was not compromised.