CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The state Supreme Court has given Gov. Jim Justice until Oct. 16 to respond to a constitutional challenge to his residency.
The court filed the scheduling order last week after Delegate Isaac Sponaugle filed a petition for writ of mandamus.
Sponaugle, D-Pendleton, filed the petition with the Supreme Court a week ago.
The case was dismissed the prior week from Kanawha Circuit Court because Sponaugle filed it before providing 30 days notice to the state.
Sponaugle, who is a lawyer in Franklin, filed the lawsuit as a citizen. He contends Governor Justice has not lived up to the state Constitution’s requirement to live at the seat of government.
The governor addressed the petition Friday during a public appearance at the Capitol. He said the priority should be results, rather than residence.
“I mean the guy really needs to pull his head out of his you know what and think about what’s going on in the state of West Virginia,” Justice said.
“I’m at the mansion on and on and on. If the guy really wants to watch me sleep at night I’ll plug him into that and everything but it will only be very few hours.”
Justice went on to say, “This just doesn’t happen by somebody that’s just hanging out. I’m not hanging out. I’m not hanging out. I’m about getting something done.”
Brian Abraham, general counsel for Justice, earlier told The Charleston Gazette-Mail that Sponaugle’s suit is without merit and not grounded in fact.
He called Sponaugle a “desperate politician trying to get free publicity,” described the new arguments as “almost comical,” and said the lawsuit is a “stunt.”
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 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’s petition contends there have been practical effects of the way Justice has chosen to live and govern.
For example, Sponaugle contends, during the statewide teachers strike last fall, teachers who rallied at the Capitol found that the governor was rarely around and were deprived of their ability to tell him their positions.
Sponaugle contends the governor is out of touch.
“Petitioner is further concerned about who is providing Respondent with his daily reports of state government since he is not present to witness it firsthand and may only be getting reports from one or two individuals that may have a desire to not keep him properly informed for other reasons,” the petition states.
Referring to senior adviser Bray Cary, the petition states, “One of the individuals is a controversial adviser with ties to the oil and gas industry, among other industries, that Respondent relies on significantly and possibly exclusively to provide him with an update on state government.”