WILLIAMSON – Following a lengthy discussion at Wednesday’s regular meeting, the Mingo County Commission voted to table a discussion concerning entering into a suit with wholesale drug distribution companies and make a final decision concerning the matter at the next regular meeting.
At the start of the discussion, Commissioner Greg “Hootie” Smith suggested that the county wait in regard to making a decision to enter a suit. Smith stated, “I was talking to Mr. Ward (Assistant Prosecuting Attorney for Mingo County) before the meeting. He has been following the litigation to provide us recommendations in this matter. It appears that the drug distributors that had reached a settlement agreement with the attorney general are now refusing to pay and are arguing over the language in the release as to whether or not the release language would stop counties and municipalities from bringing individual claims. If they are successful in that, then individual counties and cities would not have a claim; that settlement would be for all of W.Va. It would be my recommendation that we would wait before making a decision. I think we should continue to monitor that situation. If that litigation goes bad, then the county would not have an individual right.”
Following Smith’s recommendation, Commissioner Thomas Taylor acknowledged the presence of Truman Chafin, whose firm had presented a proposal to the commission to represent the county in drug distributor litigation, and requested his input.
Chafin stated, “We have filed several of these law suits with our legal team. This has never been brought up. The defense who has powerful lawyers in Washington, DC and Charleston, have never asserted this. I am assured by Morgan and Morgan and others on our legal team that the release by the attorney general will not prohibit counties from going forward. We came to you all early. We would like to have Mingo County at the front of the line and not at the back of the line. These cases are all rolling. It will end up being probably in the mass litigation panel to be assigned by the Supreme Court. If you talk about fees; you don’t have to worry about the attorney fee we submitted to you. That will be set by the court for everybody. They will fairly compensate you. However, the longer you wait the further back on the bus you are going to get. We have the number one ground zero town that we filed for, Kermit, and you all can share in that. They (drug companies) put 3,194,000 in 2015 in that one little town of 400 people. We have read it over and we are very confident that we can go forward. I would urge you to take action as fast as you can.”
“If we pursue this, we are going to want local representation and the commission will want what is the best deal for our people. When should be put this back on the agenda?” Commission President Diann Hannah asked.
The discussion continued, concerning the time limit the commission had to make a decision. The commission wanted time to look over presented proposals and make the most informed decision that would best benefit the citizens of Mingo County.
The commission has two local in- county proposals to consider; the Chafin law firm proposal and a proposal made by local attorney Mark Mitchell. A final decision is expected to be made at the next meeting of the Mingo County Commission scheduled for March 21 at 4:30 p.m.
Courtney Harrison is a news reporter for the Williamson Daily News. She can be contacted at [email protected] or at 304-235-4242 ext. 2279