Today in the Legislature

Wednesday, August 29, 2018 - 12:34 PM

Delegate Roger Hanshaw selected as Speaker

The West Virginia House of Delegates convened Wednesday morning, electing Clay County Republican Roger Hanshaw as Speaker for the remainder of the 83rd Legislature.

Republican members nominated Hanshaw and Democratic members nominated House Minority Leader Tim Miley, D-Harrison. The House elected Hanshaw with 62 members voting for him and 34 members voting for Miley.

Former House Speaker Tim Armstead resigned last week. Gov. Jim Justice recently appointed Armstead to serve on the West Virginia Supreme Court.

 Hanshaw briefly addressed the House, reflecting on a few reasons why he decided to serve in the House.

 “The answer for me is my family, who I’m pleased to have with me,” Hanshaw said, later adding. “I hope we all remember that we are one of 100 members with the privilege to sit in this House and debate the futures of families like mine—families like yours.”

 Miley also spoke, wishing the best for Hanshaw.

 “I wish the best for you in what remains of the rest of the session,” Miley said. “Even if you remain speaker in the next legislative session, I look forward to working with you in a bipartisan fashion.”

Hanshaw was first elected to the House in 2014. He serves as co-chair of the House Judiciary Committee and chair of the Committee on Flooding.

 The House adjourned Sine Die.

Monday, August 20, 2018 - 02:23 PM

Senate Establishes Rules For Trial Phase of Impeachment

The Senate met for just over an hour on Monday afternoon, adopting Senate Resolution 203, which establishes the rules for the Senate to serve as the jury in the trial phase of the impeachment process against various members of the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals.

Following adoption of the resloution, the five House Managers presented the articles of impeachment to the Senate. The designated House managers that will try the case for the House are listed below. These five delegates were appointed by House Speaker Pro Tempore John Overington, R-Berkeley, last week.

  • House Judiciary Chairman John Shott, R-Mercer
  • House Judiciary Vice-Chairman Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay
  • Delegate Ray Hollen, R-Wirt
  • Delegate Andrew Byrd, D-Kanawha
  • Delegate Rodney Miller, D-Boone                                                                                                                                 

The Senate is adjourned until subsequently called by the President.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018 - 01:48 AM

House Adopts Articles of Impeachment Against State Supreme Court Justices

The West Virginia House of Delegates voted to impeach all remaining West Virginia Supreme Court justices.

The House gaveled in at 10 a.m. and introduced House Resolution 202, regarding the impeachment of state Supreme Court justices. Delegates approved a motion to divide the question and debated, amended and voted on the articles separately.

In Monday’s hearings, the House adopted 11 of 14 Articles of Impeachment-- rejecting one and withdrawing two articles. Of the adopted articles, suspended Justice Allen Loughry was named in seven, Justice Robin Davis in four, Chief Justice Margaret Workman in three, and Justice Beth Walker in one— which included articles that individually focused on particular justices and some that combined them.

Former Justice Menis Ketchum resigned and was not part of impeachment proceedings. Ketchum faces a charge under a federal information and Loughry faces several charges in a federal indictment.  

In a 64-33 vote, the House adopted Article 1, regarding Loughry’s $386,000 office renovation. This included the purchase of a $32,000 couch, $1,700 throw pillows, and $33,750 on a new floor including a West Virginia county medallion.

Delegate Tom Fast, R-Fayette, made an amendment to censure Loughry instead of impeach—a motion he made for similar renovations-related articles for other justices. However, Fast’s amendment was defeated.

House Judiciary Chair John Shott, R-Mercer, said there was evidence presented of a plan to spend down a $29 million reserve that the state Supreme Court had accumulated between 2007 and 2010 because of a concern that the Senate would present a constitutional amendment to take back budget control of the state’s highest court. The Legislature adopted such an amendment during the last legislative session, which will go to voters in the upcoming election.

Shott said he felt the expenditure was “an irresponsible spending of taxpayer money and certainly a betrayal of trust.”

In a 56-41 vote, the House also adopted Article 2, which focused on Davis’ renovations. The article said Davis spent a total of $500,000, which included the purchase of a $20,000 oval rug, an $8,000 desk chair and $23,000 in design services.

Shott said he was shocked by Davis’ office.

“It was shocking,” Shott said. “It was like a Star Trek set.”

Those who opposed this article and similar ones dealing with renovations, expressed concerns that spending doesn’t rise to the level of impeachment.

“If you go after spending, you’re going to have to start impeaching Board of Public Works members to be consistent,” Delegate Isaac Sponaugle, D-Pendleton said, later adding. “Punishment should meet the crime. This spending makes you want to barf but there are other remedies than going down this rabbit hole.”

A few articles against Loughry passed unanimously. One, Article 3, dealt with Loughry taking home a Cass Gilbert desk, valued at around $42,000, which he kept at his home for more than four years.

The House also unanimously adopted Article 8—which said Loughry reserved state vehicles without providing destinations and used a state vehicle and state gas card to drive to book signings at The Greenbrier— and Article 9, which said Loughry used state computers for personal use at home.

In a 94-2 vote, the House also adopted Article 10, which said Loughry made false statements under oath before the House Finance Committee where he denied involvement in his renovations.

Three articles concerned the overpayment of senior status judges. Article 4, against Workman and Davis, said when both served as chief justice, they approved contracts resulting in the overpayment of senior status judges. There was debate on the clarity of the statute. Those who supported the article said state law prevents senior status judges from being paid more than a sitting judge when also taking into account retirement.

However, Delegate Joe Canestraro, D-Marshall, said the argument was flawed because Davis and Workman did not personally benefit from the action.

“The only person guilty would be the judges if they made false representations to get that,” he said, later adding. “As a prosecutor, I would have to treat this as we’ve said many times, as an indictment. This wouldn’t pass a motion to dismiss in criminal court.”

The House adopted Article 4 in a 62-34 vote.

Three other articles—Article 5-7—also focused on the overpayment of senior status judges but individually focused on Davis, Workman, and Loughry, respectively. The House adopted all three with a 61-35 vote for Article 5, 63-34 vote for Article 6, and 51-45 for Article 7.

The House withdrew Article 11, which said Loughry used state funds to pay for the framing of personal items.

The House rejected Article 12 regarding Walker’s office renovations, which totaled $131,000. Shott asked the chamber to adopt the article, saying Walker’s office was renovated over a seven-year time when former Justice Brent Benjamin was in office. This article was rejected in a 44-51 vote.

House Majority Leader Daryl Cowles, R-Morgan, objected to the article, saying Walker’s spending did not compare to others.

“Some of the furniture purchased—you could buy multiple pieces before you could buy the one couch in the earlier article,” Cowles said. “This is a fraction of the spending in the Davis impeachment article, which was $500,000, and it is a fraction, perhaps a third of the spending in the Loughry article of impeachment. I do have an issue if we add in Benjamin’s spending and remodeling over a seven-year period. You can’t hold Justice Walker responsible for remodeling done over seven years ago.”

Following the rejection of Article 12, Shott moved to withdraw Article 13, which focused on Workman’s renovations, which totaled $111,000. Shott’s motion to withdraw was approved.

The House adopted Article 14, against all remaining justices, saying justices failed to adopt travel policies, report taxable fringe benefits including vehicle use and regular lunches on their W-2s, provide supervision of state purchasing cards, provide supervision over record keeping with state vehicles, provide supervision of state property, and failed to provide supervision over purchasing procedures.

Delegate Marty Gearheart, R-Mercer, made a motion to remove Walker from the article but the House rejected this motion.

After recessing until 12:15 a.m., the House took up an amendment proposed by Delegate Michael Folk, R-Berkeley. Folk’s amendment proposed a new article against Walker for hiring outside counsel to craft a legal opinion of the court at a cost of $10,000.

During last week’s House Judiciary Committee, members rejected a similar article. Folk’s amendment was rejected in a 26-70 vote.

The House also introduced House Resolution 203, recommending public reprimand and censure of all remaining state Supreme Court justices.  This resolution was adopted in a 95-1 vote.

The House introduced House Resolution 204, which recommended censure of Ketchum and former Justice Brent Benjamin. This was referred to House Judiciary.

The House also introduced House Bill 201, which provided for the special election of state Supreme Court justices when a vacancy has occurred as the result of impeachment. Sponaugle moved to suspend the constitutional rules to take the bill up for immediate consideration. Cowles moved to table that motion, which was approved. This bill was referred to House Judiciary. 

Tuesday, August 07, 2018 - 06:58 PM

Judiciary Adopts 14 Articles of Impeachment Against W.Va. Supreme Court Justices

The House Judiciary Committee adopted 14 articles of impeachment against West Virginia Supreme Court justices and rejected two articles.

The committee convened its eighth day of impeachment hearings Tuesday, where it presented 14 original Articles of Impeachment. The committee later voted to add another two more articles against suspended Justice Allen Loughry.

Former Justice Menis Ketchum was not part of impeachment proceedings because he retired. Ketchum was charged in a federal information. Loughry faces a 23-count indictment. 

Articles of Impeachment now head to the full House, which is scheduled to meet 10 a.m. Monday, Aug. 13.

Articles of Impeachment adopted by the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday are: 

Article 1: Accusing Chief Justice Margaret Workman and Justice Robin Davis of signing and approving contracts to overpay certain senior status judges. This was adopted 17-7.

Article 2: Accusing Workman, Loughry, Davis, and Justice Beth Walker of lavish spending, including remodeling state offices, large increases in travel budgets. Some of these expenditures include unaccountable personal use of state vehicles, for unneeded computers for home use, regular lunches from restaurants, and framing of personal items. This article also accuses justices of failing to provide supervisory oversight of the court’s operations

Article 3: Accusing Loughry of taking home a Cass Gilbert desk, valued at around $42,000

Article 4: Accusing Loughry of taking home state computers for personal use 

Article 5: Accusing Loughry of personal use of state vehicles, including using the vehicle and state-issued fuel purchase card to travel to The Greenbrier for book signings and sales

Article 6: Accusing Loughry of drafting an administrative order authorizing the court to overpay certain senior status judges. This was adopted 18-6.

Article 7: Accusing Loughry of lavish spending on office renovations, totaling about $363,000, including the purchase of a $32,000 couch and $33,000 floor. This was adopted in a 21-3 vote.

Article 8: Accusing Walker of lavish spending on office renovations totaling about $131,000, including $27,000 in office furnishings and wallpaper. This was adopted 16-8.

Article 10: Accusing Davis of lavish spending on renovation costs totaling about $500,000, including a $20,000 rug, $8,000 chair and $23,000 in design services. This was adopted 19-4.

Article 11: Accusing Davis of signing forms overpaying certain senior status judges. This was adopted in a voice vote.

Article 12: Accusing Workman of lavish spending in renovating her office, totaling about $111,000, and including the purchase of wide-plank cherry floors.

Article 14: Accusing Workman of signing forms to overpay senior status judges. This was adopted in a voice vote.

Article 15: Accusing Justice Loughry of deceiving the House Finance Committee while under oath

Article 16: Accusing Justice Loughry of wasteful spending by using state funds to frame personal items

Two Articles of Impeachment were rejected. These were:

Article 9: Accusing Walker of using state funds to hire outside counsel to author a legal opinion. This was rejected 9-14.

Article 13: Accusing Workman of hiring and retaining employees, contracting services, some of which constituted an apparent repayment of political favors. This was rejected 10-13. 

Monday, August 06, 2018 - 05:42 PM

Judiciary Committee hears from Supreme Court chief financial officer

The House Judiciary Committee reconvened impeachment proceedings Monday, starting the day with a tour of the state Supreme Court chambers and offices.

Following the tour, committee members heard from Sue Racer-Troy, who serves as chief financial officer at the state Supreme Court.

Racer-Troy detailed the structure of the court, saying justices were at the top with the court administrator below them and the division directors below the administrator.

Racer-Troy said there were no written policies regarding expenditures. She said Chief Justice Margaret Workman requested former administrative director Steve Canterbury to develop written policies for P-card usage. Racer-Troy said Canterbury told her not to worry about creating this written policy.

Racer-Troy also testified that she went to Canterbury to discuss former Justice Menis Ketchum’s use of a state car for commuting purposes.  She said she had a parking space near Ketchum and saw a state car parked in his space. She testified when she told Canterbury about this, he told her to stay out of it and that it was none of her business.

Racer-Troy said she has continued to ask for details to get the true cost of renovations of the court. She said she still doesn’t know the full cost of these renovations. Racer-Troy said she got the impression that justices didn’t know how much renovations cost. She mentioned Justice Robin Davis, in particular, saying Davis seemed surprised to learn that a sofa, chairs and other furnishings were bought with state money rather than her own personal funds.

Racer-Troy said the work environment changed dramatically in 2017 after suspended Justice Allen Loughry took over as chief justice. She said there were many firings and restructuring. She said in the administrative department, there were about 20 positions that were either eliminated or consolidated.

“It created a lot of feelings of uncertainty,” Racer-Troy said. “People didn’t know how certain their jobs were.”

In the afternoon, Committee Counsel Brian Casto went over issues with senior status judges. Casto said senior status judges can’t make more than a sitting judge when adding in per diem payments and retirement. However, he said senior status judges were paid in excess of these amounts.

The committee then adjourned into executive session.

Today in the Legislature is a daily synopsis of legislative activities maintained by the West Virginia Legislature's Office of Reference & Information.


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