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Today in the Legislature

Friday, July 27, 2018 - 01:28 PM

Judiciary Committee reviews construction costs, court lunches, court vehicles

The House Judiciary Committee on Friday went over several receipts detailing construction costs, court lunches and justices' usage of court vehicles.

Committee Counsel Marsha Kauffman called Justin Robinson, acting director of the Post Audit Division, as the first and only witness of the day.

Robinson said the Legislative Auditor is in the process of digesting about 1,000 pages of documents and invoices detailing renovation of the state Supreme Court.

Robinson said the notebook the office had before was incomplete. He said on Thursday, he was informed by the court that the info he was previously provided was incomplete. Robinson said interim director of court administration Barbara Allen indicated that the omission of documentation was made at the request of suspended Justice Allen Loughry.

Robinson detailed summaries of some of the invoices. For office renovations, he said Justice Robin Davis’ cost was $500,000, Loughry’s was $363,000, former Justice Brent Benjamin’s was $264,000, Menis Ketchum, who resigned, was $171,000, Justice Beth Walker, who took over Benjamin’s office, was $130,000, and Chief Justice Margaret Workman’s cost was $111,000.

Robinson said Ketchum disputed some of these charges.

The total cost of framing was $114,788 for all justices, Robinson said.

The committee also reviewed the cost of lunches for justices and their staffs. The total amount over a five-year period was $42,314 for working lunches. For unverified court events, the cost was $4,342. These were times where there was no verified court event.

The committee also went over usage of court vehicles, specifically two instances of Loughry. In one instance, Loughry took a state vehicle to Tucker County, saying the purpose was for meeting with magistrates. However, he also appeared in the magistrate courtroom during a case filed by a pest management company against Loughry’s father.

Committee Counsel Brian Casto said the company alleged Loughry’s father refused to pay for termite treatment at his home. Casto noted the case was dismissed.

The committee also looked into logs of Loughry checking out a state vehicle and dates of his book signings. He detailed one instance where Loughry checked out a state vehicle on the day of a book signing at The Greenbrier.

He said checks from the book signings were written directly to Loughry’s wife, who is scheduled to testify at the committee’s next hearing.

Committee Chair John Shott, R-Mercer, said the committee is scheduled to take a tour of the state Supreme Court on Aug. 6. The committee is adjourned until further call of the chair.




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