DHHR dismissals still shrouded in mystery

West Virginians who want to know more about why three state employees were fired after questioning what they apparently viewed as unnecessary government spending may have to wait – again. A prosecutor’s judgment they broke no laws only brings up new questions.

Last July, the state Department of Health and Human Resources kicked three high-ranking officials out of their Charleston offices and told them to work at home, with pay. One has since been fired.

Two others have filed lawsuits against the state, alleging they were disciplined for blowing the whistle on improprieties in the DHHR.

At issue is a multi-million-dollar marketing contract awarded by the agency last year. It went to the highest of three bidders for the work. The three officials questioned whether that was proper and, as a result, were disciplined.

All three were accused of illegally meddling in the contract bidding process. A criminal investigation was launched.

On Monday, Kanawha County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Plants said his probe has been completed. No laws were broken by the three officials, he said, adding whether they violated DHHR policy is up to the agency.

But DHHR Secretary Rocco Fucillo has refused to comment on the matter. It is an internal personnel issue, he insists.

Not when taxpayers’ money is involved, it isn’t. The two current and one former DHHR officials insist they were merely trying to keep the state from paying more than necessary for the marketing contract.

Why, then, were they disciplined so harshly – and why were aspersions cast upon their characters?

West Virginians deserve to know more about what happened. As long as Fucillo refuses to talk, that means we will just have to wait until the whistleblower lawsuit goes to trial to learn more. Keeping the controversy under wraps leaves too many questions – about how taxpayers’ money is spent – unanswered.