CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The head of West Virginia University's legal division has significantly increased the university's spending on outside lawyers over the past few years, including a dramatic increase in payments to a firm where he was once a partner.
WVU vice president of legal affairs William Hutchens said the spending is necessary as the state-run university expands. Under his tenure, WVU has worked to expand its footprint in Morgantown and dealt with a high-profile exit from the Big East athletic conference.
In the two years and nine months before WVU President Jim Clements hired Hutchens away from Jackson Kelly, the university spent $3 million on outside legal work, according to figures provided by Hutchens' office.
From the time Hutchens arrived in mid-March 2010 through the end of November 2012, WVU paid $6.2 million to outside law firms. That figure is inflated somewhat by a $1.1 million payment the university made through Steptoe & Johnson to buy property from another company, according to state auditor's records.
One beneficiary of the university's legal spending has been Jackson Kelly. Hutchens was once a partner in the firm's Morgantown office.
In the two-year-and-nine-month period before Hutchens arrived at WVU, the university paid Jackson Kelly about $110,000.
Since Hutchens arrived, the university had paid Jackson Kelly at least $1.9 million.
That's a 1,600 percent increase.
The legal work is not bid out. Hutchens said the decisions about what firms to hire were his and based on his years of experience.
"My expertise and experience allows me to be the judge of who the best attorney or attorneys are for the specified legal need," he said.
Hutchens said a question about the increase in work for Jackson Kelly was "a fair question."
"My answer is a couple fold: At the end of the day, these decisions are mine and I owned them, I want to make that clear once again," he said.
He said he resigned his partnership at the firm and has no financial interest in Jackson Kelly's work. He said he intends to retire from WVU.
"I intend to be in this position until I retire," Hutchens said.