Kessler doubts any more auditing powers for Attorney General's Office
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- It's been a few days since House Speaker Tim Miley issued his so-called transparency agenda, which Republicans and Attorney General Patrick Morrisey thought in part targeted Morrisey.
In response, Morrisey on Monday called for an audit of every major government office and said he feels "so passionately about this issue that I will continue calling for these audits until the legislature and executive agree."
But Senate President Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall, said Wednesday he doesn't anticipate the Legislature granting any additional auditing powers to the Attorney General's office.
"I haven't seen his legislation or even his press release to see what he has in mind," Kessler said, who admitted he hasn't really followed the issue. "I don't think it should be targeted toward any particular individual."
Morrisey has been questioned about his recusal from three cases that involve companies his law firm represented or organizations he had dealings with before he was elected to office in West Virginia.
The state is involved in litigation against Cardinal Health, which made contributions to Morrisey's campaign. Morrisey's wife serves as a lobbyist for the company, and the company's lawyer led Morrisey's transition team.
Kessler said he would like to see across-the-board guidelines for everyone in state government to follow, should they face a conflict of interest.
"All individuals in public office who are in a similar circumstance should have some iron-clad, across-the-board conflict-of-interest guidelines they can apply to all state employees or government employees regardless of which office you hold," Kessler said.
Kessler also addressed the governor's midyear hiring freeze and proposed spending cuts.
"If you have vacancies, non-essential vacancies, you don't need to fill them," he said. "Some might not need six secretaries in an office and may be able to get by with five, things of that nature."
Kessler said the move could save $15 million a quarter, or $60 million a year. "That puts a big dent in an $80 million deficit," Kessler said. "So we can, just by not hiring and filling positions that become vacant through attrition, we can do some saving and that helps reduce the base budget for future years as well. We just have to learn sometimes to do more with less."