Morrisey walks out of WVU media rights meeting with Raese
CHARLESTON, W.Va. - West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey walked out of a Monday morning meeting with West Virginia Radio Corp. owner John Raese in Morgantown, just the latest chapter in the drama surrounding West Virginia University's Tier 3 media rights.
Morrisey's office is providing legal counsel and advice to WVU as part of a probe into potential ethical and legal violations during the process to bid out the athletic department's so-called Tier 3 media rights.
In January, WVU and media firm IMG College reached an agreement on a 12-year contract that could carry an overall value of $110 million for the firm to manage those rights, which include radio sports broadcasting and some televised football and basketball games.
The new arrangement is designed to make WVU athletics more attractive to regional advertising. The university is expected to net an additional $5 million a year through the new contract.
Raese, whose company has broadcast WVU games and also bid on the Tier 3 rights, has for months raised questions about the process and has written letters urging Morrisey to investigate.
Raese's complaints centered mainly on an apparent pending partnership between IMG College and Bray Cary's West Virginia Media Holdings, which produces basketball and football coach talk shows distributed across the company's network of statewide television affiliates.
Raese said there was an "appearance of impropriety" because Drew Payne, chairman of WVU's Board of Governors, previously held a major stake in West Virginia Media Holdings and sits on the company's board of directors while still in possession of a smaller share of the company.
Payne has said he "stayed completely away" from the new sports rights contract.
Last month, Morrisey agreed to assist the university in conducting a review of the situation. On Monday, Morrisey and his chief counsel met with Raese and his attorney, Bob Gywnne, in Morgantown.
From all accounts, the meeting did not go well.
"In the spirit of fairness and in a good faith attempt to make additional progress in our office's review of the West Virginia media rights matter, I sat down with John Raese and his attorney on Monday," Morrisey said in a statement, "so that we could learn additional information that might allow our office to get to the bottom of his allegations."
According to Morrisey's account, he became frustrated after Raese and Gwynne refused to discuss some of the specific issues they had with the process.
"Unfortunately, after I arrived, it became clear that Mr. Raese did not wish to provide our office with additional information or answer any questions," Morrisey said. "This is deeply disappointing, especially because Mr. Raese had originally asked our office to become involved in this case.
"I expected better," he said.
In a statement, Gwynne said Morrisey became angry after he and Raese pressed him on the fact that WVU had yet to respond to Freedom of Information Act requests they filed in February.
State code requires a response to these requests within five days. WVU plans to make the documents available to Raese and Gwynne on Monday, three days after this Friday's meeting of the school's Board of Governors.
"We told him that it violated basic fairness for him to come to us and ask us for information when his client had 'stonewalled' not only us, but others who sought information through FOIA," Gwynne said.
Gwynne said he and Raese proposed scheduling a second meeting after WVU turned over the requested documents.
"We told him that if we received this information from his client, we would be better able to cover all of the facts with him," Gwynne said.
"At this point, Mr. Morrisey got up from his chair, announced he was the attorney general, told us he was angry, asked if we were going to disclose this meeting to the press, and then left the room in a huff," he said.
Raese was a supporter of Morrisey's bid to become attorney general last year. According to campaign finance filings, Raese and his wife, Elizabeth, donated $1,250 to Morrisey's campaign over the course of the year.
Morrisey said in his statement his office would not be compromised by any economic interests at stake in the situation.
"We intend to pursue the truth and handle this matter appropriately notwithstanding the fact that everyone may not be happy with the result," he said. "We continue to work diligently to adhere to the rule of law so that the public will have confidence in the outcome of our review." Contact writer Jared Hunt at email@example.com or 304-348-4836.