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GOP-controlled group seeks study of Virginia AG’s office

(AP) With less than a month before Election Day, a Republican-controlled legislative commission on Tuesday asked for a broad study of the office of Democratic Attorney General Mark Herring.

The Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission approved a resolution asking staff to do the evaluation — just four weeks before Herring faces a challenge from Republican John Adams in the Nov. 7 election.

The study would include how the office spends proceeds from asset forfeiture and an examination of salary increases.

The Associated Press reported earlier this year that the Justice Department gave Herring’s office instructions on how to work around its own rules for spending asset forfeiture money.

Herring’s spokesman, Michael Kelly, called the commission’s resolution an “obvious political stunt.”

“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!” Kelly said in a statement.

Law enforcement agencies participating in investigations with their federal counterparts can share proceeds of assets seized under programs run by the Justice and Treasury departments, but both agencies have rules generally prohibiting the use of such money for salaries and pay raises.

The Justice Department suggested in a PowerPoint presentation obtained from Herring’s office that instead of using the money to pay for raises, agencies can use it to cover routine costs and then redirect money already budgeted for maintenance into salaries.

Kelly said in January that the raises were made possible in part by using some of the funds to pay allowable expenses involving the agency’s rent, vehicle maintenance and operational costs. He said the raises were needed to attract and keep top-notch attorneys.

Adams said he is pleased the commission will review Herring’s office.

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