West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, in office for less than four months, is off to a fast start in keeping his campaign promises. One of them is worth millions of dollars to taxpayers.
Morrisey's predecessor, Darrell McGraw, seemed to think any money his office could lay its hands on was his to spend, as he saw fit. Millions of dollars collected for the state through lawsuits should have gone into the state treasury. Instead, McGraw kept the money, doling it out for causes he deemed worthy, especially when his largesse might help get him re-elected.
Finally last fall, West Virginia voters had had enough of McGraw's shenanigans. They voted him out of office, largely on the strength of Morrisey's pledges to clean up the attorney general's agency.
One of Morrisey's key promises was to seek approval by the Legislature when he wants to spend money out of amounts his office collects through lawsuit settlements. To that end, he sought and received lawmakers' approval of a bill that will deal with nearly $7.5 million in the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Fund.
Most of the money will go to the state Affordable Housing Fund, to a behavioral health program, and to West Virginia University and Marshall University. About $1.85 million will be used to hire staff in the attorney general's office, improve technology and pay for some operating expenses.
In the past, McGraw might well have distributed the money himself to purchase useless trinkets with his name prominently displayed. But Morrisey is doing the right thing by having the Legislature - which is supposed to be in charge of budget appropriations - deal with the cash.
For several years, some legislators complained about McGraw's system. But when it came time to do something about it, not enough support could be mustered to pass the necessary bills. Now, Morrisey has taken care of the problem by, in effect, agreeing that lawsuit settlement money goes into the treasury to be spent as lawmakers decide.
Morrisey has several reforms he wants to see and seems to be working diligently to implement them. This is a big one, however, and the new attorney general deserves praise for it.