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Both candidates for attorney general say Sharon Pigeon will not return to her post.
Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Senior Assistant Attorney General Sharon Pigeon is one member of the AG’s office who won’t be returning to her current position when a new administration takes over in January, say the two candidates competing for the role of Virginia’s top lawyer.
Both Republican Sen. Mark Obenshain and Democratic Sen. Mark Herring, in response to a Bristol Herald Courier inquiry on Pigeon’s future job status, blasted her apparent aid to a pair of energy companies now being sued by Southwest Virginia landowners for millions of dollars in natural gas royalties.
“I will discuss with current employees in the Attorney General’s office their interest in staying,” Democrat Herring wrote of his plans for the office. “As Attorney General, I will not rehire the assistant Attorney General [Pigeon].”
Pigeon is the AG’s legal adviser to the Virginia Gas and Oil Board, which monitors an escrow account holding at least $30 million in royalties generated in the past 20 years from energy companies siphoning natural gas without the landowners’ permission.
She recently fell under scrutiny when a federal magistrate judge noted shock at the courtroom advice she emailed to lawyers for CNX Gas and EQT Production on how to defeat the federal class-action lawsuits, which could potentially include thousands of regional landowners as plaintiffs.
“The actions of this particular assistant attorney general have undermined the ability of the office to most effectively serve the people of Virginia,” Obenshain wrote. “It’s clear to me that there is need for someone new to serve as the adviser to the Gas and Oil Board.”
Pigeon declined to be interviewed for this story.
Scrutiny over her actions culminated Oct. 15, when the Office of the State Inspector General released the results of an investigation that cited her for “inappropriately” using state resources to help the corporate lawyers. By law, the report did not recommend a punishment.
Current Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, the Republican candidate in a tight race for governor, recently said that Pigeon’s “rare expertise” with laws pertaining to the gas and oil industry is the reason why she continues to stay on.
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