Legislative auditors have run the red flag up the pole, questioning some $3.5 million that was spent by the workers’ compensation program before it was converted into the privatized BrickStreet Mutual Insurance Co. last year.

Surprised? We’re not, and if you are, you either haven’t lived in West Virginia very long or you haven’t had contact with the public since 1863.

BrickStreet officials, including president and chief executive officer Greg Burton (yes, the same one who was allowed to convert accumulated vacation and sick leave into a $100,000-plus bonanza before leaving the state payroll), says many of the expenditures in question may have been mistakenly billed to the wrong account.

So let’s take a little closer look, say, like the auditors did.

A $35 million fund was created by the state to cover transitional costs from the old, broken workers’ comp fund to the private, for-profit BrickStreet company.

We’re not going to debate whether that was too high or a mistake, that’s not today’s pressing issue.

But the $3.5 million in question, which according to legislative auditor Aaron Allred includes tens of thousands in hospitality expenditures at some of the state’s pricier restaurants, was billed to the then-existing workers’ comp operating account — not the transition fund. Allred called the spending “excessive” and questioned whether it benefited the state.

Oops, accounting error, right?

What gives us a sore behind is that Burton and others representing BrickStreet are trying to label this multimillion-dollar revelation, from the auditors of state taxpayers’ money, simply as being incorrect billing, and also an underestimation of the costs to spin the state’s troubled comp system off into the private sector.

“The business community is going to understand that there is a setting-up process,” Burton told The Associated Press.

Now BrickStreet is in discussions with the state to determine how much, if any, of the money must be repaid. That should be interesting. It’s that bated breath thing, you know.

While we’re waiting to see what happens, we think it should be noted that this is yet another in a long list of unneeded and unaffordable milkings that the taxpayers of West Virginia continue to endure.


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