CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Gov. Jim Justice has gotten a reprieve on where he resides.
A lawsuit over the governor’s residence has been dismissed because the state delegate who filed it didn’t provide required notification about his lawsuit.
Kanawha Circuit Judge Charles King dismissed the lawsuit on Monday, but Delegate Isaac Sponaugle is already hatching plans to re-file.
“I want Governor Jim Justice to follow the West Virginia Constitution and show up to work,” Sponaugle stated today. “I’m not interested in the Governor’s delay tactics to run out the clock until his term expires, twenty-seven months from now.”
Sponaugle, a Democrat from Pendleton County, filed the lawsuit as a citizen, contending Governor Justice has not lived up to the state Constitution’s requirement to live at the seat of government.
Where Justice lives has been an issue ever since he took office. He has continued to make his home in Lewisburg, a couple of hours from the Capitol. He says he works hard no matter where he is and that he may be reached at all hours via his flip phone.
The lawsuit never quite got to the central argument. Instead, it got hung up on a notification requirement.
Today, Judge King wrote, “It is undisputed that Petitioner did not comply with the pre-suit notice requirements set forth in W.Va. Code 55-17-3 prior to instituting this action.
“More specifically, petitioner did not provide Respondent and/ or the Attorney General written notice, by certified mail, return receipt requested of the alleged claim and the relief desired at least thirty days prior to the institution of this action.”
Sponaugle provided notification August 9 about his lawsuit — after the original had been filed and in anticipation that the judge might rule as he did.
“As a result, I can refile my action at any time with either the Circuit Court of Kanawha County or the West Virginia Supreme Court,” Sponaugle stated today.
Sponaugle continued, “I will be refiling my Writ of Mandamus action with the West Virginia Supreme Court within the next week. I want this matter resolved in a timely manner by the highest court of the State of West Virginia.”
A preliminary hearing before Judge King was August 27.
After that hearing, lawyer Mike Carey, representing the governor, said the state contends Justice lives up to his obligation.
“We don’t believe the governor is in violation of any constitutional provision,” Carey said. “He’s left to his discretion to implement the requirements of that. He’s in Charleston on many occasions. In fact, just this Saturday when he appointed two new members of the Supreme Court.
“It must be left to the discretion of the constitutional officer to implement that requirement. And the courts will not get involved in requiring a constitutional officer to do certain things in the future.”
Carey went on to say, “I don’t think any court will have any interest in providing oversight to the activities of the governor, who, in his discretion performs his duties.”
The state Constitution always has and continues to address where officers of the executive branch should live: “They shall reside at the seat of government during their terms of office, keep there the public records, books and papers pertaining to their respective offices, and shall perform such duties as may be prescribed by law.”
That applies to the governor, secretary of state, auditor, treasurer, agriculture commissioner and attorney general.
Sponaugle got so frustrated, he filed a lawsuit, seeking to compel the governor to live where the Constitution specifies.
Governor Justice has maintained his position that he doesn’t need to live at 1716 Kanawha Boulevard E., Charleston, also known as the Governor’s Mansion.
“If you knew what all I did, how much I’m here and how much I’m going all over the place and everything, I use this mansion as it needs to be used,” Justice said, responding to a question about the lawsuit in late August.
“I mean, I use it as my residence or my place of doing business or whatever, for what it needs to be used, for whatever I’m trying to get done. I don’t use it as a perk. You know, and I don’t want to use it as a perk. I just don’t want to do that.”