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WV attorney general submits budget to lawmakers

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West Virginia lawmakers saw a new face for the first time in several years during this year's budget presentation from the West Virginia Attorney General's Office.

Attorney General Patrick Morrisey told lawmakers they had every right to ask the Attorney General questions, and he spent nearly the entire allotted hour outlining his office's role and duties along with making the case for some supplemental appropriations.

"We're going to make sure this gets paid for," Morrisey said. "Of course there are plusses up front for things we want to invest in, but we want to make sure we have savings at the back end."

Morrisey said his office currently has 191 people, and 49 percent of them are lawyers. He said about 20 members of former Attorney General Darrell McGraw left the office in December, and between five and seven other McGraw employees were dismissed.

"We're in the process right now of doing very thorough personnel reviews," Morrisey said.
Morrisey said the office is in dire need of a structure transformation so it can run like a modern law firm.

"This is not a big wish list," he said. "These are absolute essentials."
Morrisey said he wants to reform how the office had traditionally hired outside counsel. He said by hiring top-notch attorneys who can work most cases, the state could ultimately save money on outside counsel fees.

He told lawmakers there were no policies and procedures for how to govern the office left for him, and he'd like to establish some "if I get hit by a bus tomorrow, then the next person comes in and gets to see how the office should be run on a day-to-day basis."

Morrisey said with his first five weeks in office, he's mostly been "assuring that the trains are running on time," and despite inheriting a "significant backlog," the office is now caught up.
He also brought up trinkets, something he eschewed in a media conference last week.

"I took issue in the past with the ways the consumer protection division had spent money," Morrisey said. "I don't think it's right that an office holder should have his name on a trinket and taxpayers should pay for it, so that practice has come to an end."

Morrisey also repeatedly told lawmakers that he wants them to stop by his office.

"Members of this committee may not always like everything I have to say, but I will tell you that I will always be transparent," he said.

In terms of budget requests, Morrisey said the office needs to have a new phone system.

"Right now we have 25 people over in our consumer division who don't have voicemail," he said. "The numbers we're presenting to you today we think are realistic."

Morrisey said the underlying hardware that supports the phone system is not functioning properly, so calls are frequently routed to the wrong employees.

And, Morrisey said technology throughout the Attorney General's Office is outdated and ineffective. In a news release, Morrisey said while nearly every other state office uses Microsoft Outlook, the Attorney General's Office uses a Novell platform, which is no longer supported by the manufacturer. The office also uses GroupWise email, which is not compatible with most other email programs.

The price estimate Morrisey gave lawmakers was $965,000 for the upgrade of office hardware and infrastructure, and about $98,000 per year for annual maintenance, but he said any purchases would go through a competitive bidding process, and he would open the request for proposal process to the Legislature as well.