RICHMOND — A month before the election, legislative Republicans have requested a broad evaluation of the office of Democratic Attorney General Mark R. Herring.
The GOP-controlled Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission approved a resolution Tuesday requesting commission staff conduct a broad study of the office.
That will include how the office spends proceeds from asset forfeiture, an examination of salary increases and whether Herring's office has properly contracted with outside counsel.
"It's going to be a fairly broad study of the AG's office," JLARC Director Hal Greer said.
Legislators first suggested a study of the Attorney General's Office in July, he said. After staff at the legislature's watchdog agency created an issue paper in September, commission members asked staff to draft the resolution that they passed Tuesday, Greer said.
The commission's chairman is Del. Robert D. Orrock Sr., R-Caroline, and its vice chairman is Senate Majority Leader Thomas K. Norment Jr., R-James City. Work on the study is to be completed by December 2019.
The study resolution also said JLARC staff would examine the Attorney General's Medicaid fraud control unit, which "has grown over time with relatively little supervision, and has devoted a substantial portion of its resources to national pharmaceutical cases, potentially at the expense of local fraud cases."
Herring spokesman Michael Kelly said by email: "The General Assembly ignored this office for 20 years under Republican AGs, and now four weeks before a Democratic attorney general is up for re-election they’re suddenly concerned. What a coincidence!
"Instead of using JLARC to study affordable health care access or ways to protect insurance coverage for birth control, Republicans in the legislature are trying to turn it into a partisan political weapon with this obvious political stunt."
Kelly said Herring welcomed the chance to share the good work of his office with the legislature. He also noted that a new review of Herring's office by the State Auditor of Public Accounts found no problems.
Herring, finishing a first term as attorney general, faces Republican John Adams in the November election. He has led Adams in every poll conducted in the race and was ahead 51 percent to 40 percent in a survey of likely voters released Monday by the Judy Ford Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University.
The Adams campaign issued a statement from him that said he was pleased JLARC would review the office.
"While he has picked and chosen which of our laws to defend, his office was successfully sued in a pay discrimination case, sanctioned by a judge for discovery violations, and took money from human trafficking programs to give pay raises to his political allies in the office. And the commonwealth pays the price. Virginia desperately needs a new lawyer," Adams said in the statement.
Adams was particularly upset that Herring did not defend the state's ban on gay marriage, which the U.S. Supreme Court later deemed unconstitutional.
While Adams has attacked Herring throughout the race over his handling the job, Herring has criticized Adams for his work as a white-collar defense attorney at powerhouse law firm McGuireWoods. Adams is on leave during the campaign from his position as chair of the government investigations and white-collar litigation department.
"He has been part of a powerful Richmond law firm for the last seven years, and he and his team brag about how they specialize in shielding people who are involved in kickbacks, pyramid schemes, embezzlement, money laundering, tax fraud, bribery, obstruction of justice. It’s astounding," Herring said in their first debate, held in June in Virginia Beach. "It’s like he’s trying to be the anti-attorney general."
The two are scheduled to debate a second time Oct. 20 before the Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce.