West Virginia First Foundation looks to bank dollars and moves toward hiring executive director

A foundation established to distribute millions of dollars in opioid litigation money has a total of $217,640,751.40 on hand right now.

The West Virginia First Foundation is also continuing its discussions about how to best invest that money to secure it and to gain interest. The Foundation is also moving toward negotiations with a possible and yet-unnamed executive director.

And the foundation went into private session on Monday afternoon to discuss its policies toward transparency.

Matt Harvey

Matt Harvey, chairman of the foundation board, described, “a desire of this board to be as transparent as possible with the public and to create appropriate policies to ensure that that’s done.

“We understand that this is a unique foundation. The proceeds were entrusted to us by the counties and municipalities. That took a good deal of faith on their part, and we want to make sure we’re good stewards. So we’re doing our best, so we want to put together a good meeting and transparency policy that gives them comfort that we’re being good stewards of their money and that we’re here to help.”

He added that the transparency policy is still a work in progress. “And I think any further discussion of it would be most appropriate of it in the executive session.”

So board members remained on an online call to discuss the transparency policy as well as a personnel matter that involves the upcoming hiring of an executive director. Reporters who had been on the call, along with other members of the public, had to drop off.

MetroNews interjected to note the irony of a discussion of transparency in private and also to seek clarification of whether the board intended to take any action following the executive session. Caity Coyne, a reporter for West Virginia Watch, also jumped in to ask that the board be clear about any actions that could result from the closed session.

“I don’t anticipate any action will be taken,” said Harvey, who is also the Jefferson County prosecutor. “It’s just more of a legal discussion on some issues.”

This was the second meeting for the West Virginia First Foundation, the non-profit organization approved by state lawmakers to handle opioid settlement funds. The state will have about $1 billion following a number of lawsuits against distributors, wholesalers and pharmacies.

The “West Virginia First Memorandum of Understanding” lays out the terms for the state and the many counties and cities that may receive a portion of the settlement to push back against ongoing drug addiction issues.

A major portion of the millions of dollars, 72.5 percent, goes to a private, nonstock, nonprofit corporation described as an Opioid Foundation. That foundation will now distribute the funding for work toward abating the opioid epidemic in communities around the state.

Members of the foundation spent a significant portion of Monday’s meeting discussing how best to bank the money already on hand.

So far, board members said, the money already on hand has earned $140,751 in interest.

The board is pursuing requests for bids by banking services, accounting services and an investment adviser. The board tasked an executive committee with getting requests for proposal in final shape to go out.

“The board is going to probably want to have a group that is going to look at those and put some level of analysis into all that stuff because simply the reality of it is, given the amount of money that’s involved here, which is a lot,” said Roy Cunningham, legal counsel and a member of the law firm Lewis Gianola PLLC, “there’s more to them than there is for one for banking and one for tax and accounting type of services.”

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