Just what does Mark Herring have to hide?
One of my goals during four years as director of administration for Attorney Generals Mark Earley and Randy Beales was to keep the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission busy somewhere else. Having JLARC combing through your office asking inconvenient questions is no fun.
But had JLARC shown interest, I don’t think our response would have been quite the whine about partisanship that is coming from the current incumbent in that office. “No one should be under any illusions about the partisan, election-year motivations that led to this review,” says Attorney General Mark Herring in an AP article in today’s Richmond Times-Dispatch.
The Office of Attorney General is a major state agency, spending major bucks on a host of vital professional services. It screws up and the consequences can be huge. It is also a major launching pad for higher office. The association of the various state AGs, with the acronym NAAG, is widely known as the National Association of Aspiring Governors. Mark Earley was certainly an aspiring governor, and that was certainly one reason I didn’t want to risk a JLARC review.
But suck it up, Herring. If you are running the place like a professional law office, keeping the partisanship to a small circle of senior advisers, then the report will be an asset to any future campaign.
This is more personal than I usually get but looking back on my third of a century around the Capitol, those four years were the best job I ever had. Earley and Beales, in my opinion, did it right. The job I held was at the center of the political pressure points and I can testify that it takes a thick hide and rigid backbone to tell the partisans no, no, hell no.
The opportunities for mischief are legion. I may now call JLARC and tell them where to look, tell them to see if things I resisted are now commonplace. Hiring, firing, salaries, travel approval and other perks can all be abused. The shameless use of office resources for promotional activities is tempting all the time.
My saying no to stuff led to plenty of arguments around the office, arguments I didn’t always win, but I won most and resentments lingered. It was my job to take the heat so the AG could sail on unperturbed.
When Mark Earley’s time to run for Governor did come, the Mark Warner campaign charged in with a series of FOIA requests that tied me up for much of that year. The person drafting them was Claire Gastañaga, who had worked in the office and knew what to look for. I do not recall anything she turned up ending up as a campaign issue, no debate “gotcha” or news release alleging (or worse, proving) mismanagement.
Have you been that careful, General Herring? When pressured to hire a new lawyer, hire an outside counsel, pay that outside counsel above the state rate, create some bogus “outreach” program that is openly political, have you or your staff resisted? Said no enough?
It is political considerations which have kept JLARC away from that office for too long. The Auditor of Public Accounts is in there regularly, but it asks very different questions. Much mischief can hide in clean books.
Beyond questions about partisan favoritism are the basic issues of whether that law firm, and it is a law firm, is using the best techniques, technology and business practices for that industry. Had JLARC come in 20 years ago, one of the bullet points would probably have been over reliance on lawyers and too little reliance on legal assistants and other para-professionals. Still true?
The computer system was state of the art when I left, but is it now? The AG’s office, as I recall, stayed out of the clutches of the Northrop Grumman contract.
Can’t wait for this JLARC report.
By the way, my old office is still intact in the Pocahontas Building, now used by Senator Jill Vogel. No plaque yet. But I was reminded the other day about the real legacy, when an SCC staff person jogged my memory about hiring her. Didn’t know her politics then, and don’t know them now. It was a good office when Mark and Randy and I got there, and we left it a bit better.
Prove the same about your term, Herring, and you’re ready for the next step.There are currently no comments highlighted.