West Virginia government's largest agency is now an election hot potato.
While the state Department of Health and Human Resources hasn't shown up yet in campaign ads - the gold standard of what campaigns think is relevant to voters - both Democrat Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and Republican challenger Bill Maloney have had to talk about the unwieldy and troubled agency.
DHHR has about 5,700 employees and oversees about $3.7 billion a year, though most of that money is federal. The department is responsible for everything from permits to water wells to welfare programs, a point Tomblin made in a recent interview.
But DHHR has been publicly plagued by problems this year. Among them:
As a result, Tomblin and Maloney have been asked twice in recent days if the department needs to be broken up so someone can get their arms around it. State legislators bounced that idea around in 2009 but it went nowhere.
The agency was created in an effort to save money and end duplication, but the burden on its secretary is enormous. It may not help that a whistleblower lawsuit against Acting Secretary Rocco Fucillo and other DHHR officials suggests Fucillo was absent or uninterested about the marketing contract during key moments.
Maloney has criticized the Tomblin administration for allowing Fucillo to work part of the time from near his home in Clarksburg and be compensated for commuting to Charleston. That arrangement has since ended, even though Maloney has repeated his criticism in recent days.