By Rachel Dove
CHARLESTON - Just hours after Miki Thompson was sworn in as the new circuit judge of Mingo County on Wednesday, State Supreme Court Chief Justice Robin Davis appointed former family law master Susan Shelton Perry to temporarily serve as Mingo family judge until Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin appoints an interim judge. Thompson had served in that position since 2009.
If the same process is followed as the one to name a circuit judge, qualified applicants will apply for the job, and a panel will review those applications, conduct interviews, and will then make a recommendation to Tomblin.
According to information provided by the Associated Press on Thursday regarding the appointment, Perry, who served as a former deputy secretary for the state Department of Health and Human Resources, was fired a year ago after being on administrative leave for about a year. Perry and former administrator Jennifer Taylor are suing DHHR, former acting DHHR secretary Rocco Fucillo, DHHR deputy secretary Warren Keefer and DHHR purchasing director Bryan Rosen, contending they were victims of illegal reprisals for their roles as whistle-blowers.
In April, Perry’s attorney, Walt Auvil, asked Kanawha Circuit Judge James Stucky to reinstate Perry and grant her back pay before the completion of the lawsuit. Stucky refused the request. A trial is set for August.
Perry claims state officials who fired her didn’t have legal authority to do so, because state lawmakers never approved Fucillo’s role as acting secretary. Perry and Taylor’s lawsuits claim that they, along with DHHR communications director John Law, were fired for raising concerns about inconsistencies in the evaluation and scoring of the bid packages for an advertising contract.
According to the complaints, Perry asked Taylor to review the score sheets for the advertising bid packages to determine whether they could provide grounds for the successful protest of the contract award by any of the bidders, which could delay awarding of the contract and prompt legal costs.
Taylor’s analysis, according to the lawsuit, found major inconsistencies in scoring. She described the scoring as “a poster child for arbitrary and capricious,” according to the complaints.
According to the complaints, the issue came up in a July 13, 2012, conference call with Fucillo, who was working out of the DHHR’s Fairmont office, and Fucillo advised he would discuss the matter with them on July 16. Instead, on that date, Perry, Taylor and Law were placed on administrative leave, barred from DHHR offices, had their email accounts blocked and were prohibited from contacting DHHR staffers at the workplace, according to the lawsuit.
Also, Perry and Taylor allege that Fucillo ordered an investigation by the DHHR Office of Inspector General, “undertaken in bad faith, with malice, and the intent to retaliate and engage in reprisal against [Perry and Taylor] for their actions as whistle-blowers.”
The lawsuits contend they were the subject of a “purported search warrant,” which they argue misrepresented facts surrounding the request for proposal review, and which essentially accuse Perry and Taylor of criminal conduct.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.