Mark Herring Gave Staff Backdoor Pay Raises; John Adams Would Tackle Heroin and Opioid Crisis

RICHMOND – John Adams, the Republican nominee for attorney general, today launched “What Mark did with the Money,” highlighting the backdoor pay raises Mark Herring gave to selected staff in his office – including his former campaign manager, as well as a former lobbyist who, prior to joining the Attorney General's office, "schmoozed lawmakers and regulators for corporate clients" according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch – using funds received from a Medicaid fraud investigation into Abbott Laboratories.

Herring found a workaround to use the money, which is generally prohibited from being used for salaries, to give 16 employees in the attorney general’s office raises of more than 20% at a time when state employee salaries were stagnant. And Herring’s former lobbyist received a nearly 10% bump in his compensation. Between 2014-2015 and 2015-2016, Herring’s attorney general’s office and Department of Law increased its payroll by nearly $2 million, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch’s salary database. Other states earmarked the money for public schools, to lower health care costs, or fund consumer protection.

“Mark Herring found a completely unacceptable workaround to use money from a Medicaid fraud case to give staff backdoor pay raises,” said Adams. “This is money that should have gone back to the state, not to reward selected staff members with pay raises. Since Herring took office, fatal opioid overdoses have increased 66 percent. As attorney general, I would have put this money toward combatting the heroin and opioid crisis we are facing here in Virginia – a crisis that is getting worse, not better.”

What Mark Herring Did with the Money
According to the Associated Press, Herring’s office gave pay raises to selected employees in the Office of the Attorney General by diverting asset forfeiture money from the Abbott Settlement.
“Law enforcement agencies participating in investigations with federal counterparts can share proceeds of seized assets under Equitable Sharing programs run by the Justice and Treasury departments. Both agencies have clear rules that generally prohibit the use of such money for salaries and pay raises. However, the Justice Department suggested a workaround in a PowerPoint presentation obtained from the office of Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring after the AP raised questions about significant pay raises for several of Herring's employees at a time when state workers' pay was stagnant elsewhere. Some staff attorneys' salaries rose as much as $15,000 in a year — one had a 30-percent increase.” (Associated Press, 1/18/17)

Herring’s office provided raises of more than 20% to 16 employees, including 15 assistant attorneys general.
  • Between 2014-2015 And 2015-2016, Herring’s office reported grow pay increases of more than 20% to 16 employees, including 15 assistant attorneys general. (Richmond Times-Dispatch Salary Database)
He also gave a raise to his former campaign manager who now serves as his chief of staff, as well as a former lobbyist who “schmoozed lawmakers.”
  • From 2014-2015, John Daniel’s compensation increased from $128,000 to $140,560, a 9.8% increase. (Richmond Times-Dispatch Salary Database)
  • “…teamed with John Daniel, a glib grayhair in the Office of the Attorney General who’s served governors and schmoozed lawmakers and regulators for corporate clients.” (Richmond Times Dispatch6/27/15)
  • From 2014-2015 to 2015-2016, Kevin O’Holleran’s compensation increased from $105,000 to $109,242, a 4.04% increase. (Richmond Times-Dispatch Salary Database)
The Richmond Times-Dispatch criticized Herring for “Policing for Profit.”
“When it comes to policing for profit, no one is immune from temptation. Just ask Attorney General Mark Herring. The knock against the practice - sometimes called ‘civil asset forfeiture’ - has been clear and simple for many years: Allowing law-enforcement agencies to confiscate people's personal property without even filing criminal charges, let alone obtaining a conviction, violates the nation's bedrock principles regarding justice. What's more, allowing law-enforcement agencies to keep and spend the proceeds of such seizures gives them an overwhelming incentive to further abuse an already abusive system.” (Richmond Times-Dispatch, 1/22/17)

The Virginia Senate recommended cutting $500,000 from Herring’s budget after the report about the raises.
“In other budget news, the Senate is recommending cutting $500,000 from Democratic Attorney General Mark Herring's office. The move comes after The Associated Press reported last month that Herring was able to give sizeable raises - as much as $15,000 in a year - with the indirect help of asset forfeiture funds. Herring raised the pay floor for 64 attorneys, with a median raise of about $7,000.” (Associated Press, 2/5/17)