CHARLESTON, West Virginia — A jury should hear allegations that West Virginia officials retaliated against two Department of Health and Human Resources lawyers for raising concerns about an advertising contract, a Kanawha Circuit judge has concluded.
Judge Jim Stucky also questioned the public release of a search warrant request targeting lawyers Susan Perry and Jennifer Taylor in his April 9 ruling refusing to dismiss their whistleblower lawsuit.
Taylor and Perry allege the warrant request was meant to harm their reputations. Stucky agreed that its lengthy details presented them and a third department official "in what only can be construed as an embarrassing and humiliating light."
"The decision of the Kanawha County prosecutor that no criminal action ensued indicated that the allegations contained in the 'search warrant' were false or, at best, misleading," Stucky's order said.
But Stucky also ruled that it's up to jury to decide whether department Secretary Rocco Fucillo and two of his top deputies acted "in bad faith, with malice and with the intent to retaliate and engage in reprisal."
Perry, Taylor and the third official, John Law, were exiled from their Capitol offices in July after questioning the handling of bids for the contract. Taylor and Law, who did not sue, have since been fired.
The trio raised concerns about how others at the department scored the technical merits of bids from four vendors. That scoring allowed Ohio-based Fahlgren Mortine to win the ad contract, though it had filed the highest bid at $473,000. While signed for one year, the contract can be extended and its value can increase if other agencies piggyback on the services it provides.