The drug distributor, Cardinal Health, also contributed to Morrisey’s inauguration party last year, and the company’s executives wrote checks to Morrisey’s campaign — before and after the November 2012 election.
Morrisey inherited the Cardinal Health case from ousted attorney general Darrell McGraw, who alleged that the drug company helped fuel Southern West Virginia’s problem with prescription drugs by shipping an excessive number of pain pills to the region.
The Gazette’s lawsuit follows 11 months of refusals by Morrisey to release records that might show if he took part in decisions about the Cardinal Health case.
The newspaper requested the documents under the state Freedom of Information Act. Morrisey has identified four, and up to eight, “potentially responsive” documents. However, his lawyers repeatedly have argued that Morrisey can keep the records secret, citing “attorney-client privilege” and other exemptions under state law.
Morrisey has said he stepped aside from the Cardinal Health lawsuit when he took office in January 2013.
The Gazette’s lawsuit, filed in Kanawha County Circuit Court, asks for a judge to review the eight documents and order Morrisey to release them. The Gazette argues that Morrisey can’t use attorney-client privilege as an excuse to withhold the records because Morrisey “has asserted that he recused himself and therefore was neither the attorney nor the client” in the Cardinal Health case.
“The public records requested by [the Gazette] represent an important matter concerning public issues of the highest interest, including the integrity of high government officials,” the Gazette’s lawsuit states.
The newspaper also seeks to stop Morrisey from refusing to disclose if records exist when people request documents under the FOIA. Last September, Morrisey’s office rejected the Gazette’s request for emails “that would show [Morrisey’s] involvement” in the Cardinal Health lawsuit, saying such documents, “if they exist,” would not be released.