Latest News, WVPA Sharing

Chief Justice says justices misled about costs of office renovations


The State Journal

CHARLESTON, W.Va.  — West Virginia Supreme Court Chief Justice Allen Loughry said he was misled about the cost of office furnishings and other accoutrements in an ongoing $3.7 million renovation project for the state Supreme Court.

Members of the West Virginia Supreme Court seated, from left, are Justice Robin Jean Davis, Chief Justice Allen Loughry and Justice Margaret Workman. Standing, from left, are Justice Menis Ketchum and Justice Beth Walker.
(Submitted photo)

According to information provided by the Supreme Court, the state spent $363,000 renovating Loughry’s office in 2013, including one expense for nearly $32,000 for a sectional sofa.

Records provided by the Supreme Court also show the state paid $264,000 to renovate former Justice Brent Benjamin’s office, another $130,600 in renovations to the office of Justice Beth Walker when Walker took over for Benjamin in 2017, almost $173,000 to renovate the office of Justice Menis Ketchum, $111,000 to redo the office of Justice Margaret Workman and about $500,000 to renovate the offices of Justin Robin Davis, although Davis reimbursed the state for some of her office furniture.

The Supreme Court has control over its budget, which is provided by the state Legislature without oversight.

Loughry conceded the office renovations were expensive, but said he didn’t have firsthand knowledge of what the expenses would be.

“I will never defend wasteful spending,” Loughry said Tuesday. “While I may be the chief justice, I’m still a citizen and taxpayer of the state.”

Loughry blamed the renovation costs on former Supreme Court Administrator Steve Canterbury, who signed off on the work.

Loughry said the renovation work began in 2008 and included the first, third and fourth floors of the Capitol. When he took office in 2013, Loughry said, more than 96 percent of the work had been done.

“These (expenses) were 100 percent authorized by Mr. Canterbury,” Loughry said. “He didn’t even have the authority to purchase items over $20,000.”

Loughry said Canterbury misled him about the costs of his office furnishings, telling him the office had a government contract with more than 70 percent off the furnishings.

“He told me the furnishings would be ‘dirt cheap,’ but that was obviously a lie,” Loughry said.

Loughry said that when he became chief justice in 2017, he immediately began looking into Canterbury’s actions.

“I called for an investigation of Mr. Canterbury’s prior tenure at the court,” he said.

Canterbury was fired not long after Loughry became chief justice.

But Canterbury said he just did what his bosses asked him to do. He also said the justices knew approximately how much their office renovations were going to cost.

Canterbury said Loughry knew exactly how much his couch would cost.

“He told me, ‘Well, you’re going to sign off on it,’” Canterbury said. “‘I’ll just blame you if anybody asks.’ I thought he was joking, but that’s what he did.

“They all knew their offices. Margaret Workman wanted a special contractor for her cabinets.”

Canterbury said Ketchum wanted to make sure the contractor for his office was from Huntington.

Ketchum defended the chief justice.

“Since January 2017, Chief Justice Loughry has eliminated over $7 million of previous wasteful spending,” Ketchum said in a prepared statement.

“This excessive spending would not have been discovered without Chief Justice Loughry’s determined efforts,” Ketchum said. “He has doggedly turned over every rock in an effort to discover and eliminate waste.”

Canterbury said he told Davis the two rugs she wanted in her office would be expensive, with an ultimate price tag of $28,000. He said she told him the rugs would last 50 years.

Most of the cost of Davis’ office renovations went to construction, because she wanted a modern look with a lot of stainless steel. But Davis told WCHS-TV she reimbursed the state for the cost of the furniture.

“Everything that you see in this, my private office, is owned by me,” Davis told WCHS reporter Kennie Bass. “With the exception of the carpet that you’re sitting on and that table and those two plastic chairs, the art, every other piece of furniture in my office is owned by me.”

Canterbury insists the justices knew what was being done in their own offices and about how much it was going to cost.

“There were some details that were delegated to others,” he said. “But they knew their offices, and they knew what they wanted.”

Staff Writer Rusty Marks can be reached at 304-415-1480 or email at [email protected]

See more from The State Journal

Comments are closed.

West Virginia Press Newspaper Network " "

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

And get our latest content in your inbox

Invalid email address