Impeachment Day 8: Delegates vote on articles impeaching all WV justices

The House Judiciary Committee is continuing hearings to determine whether to recommend impeachment of one or more members of the West Virginia Supreme Court. Moment by moment, here’s what’s happening:

6:11 p.m. The full House of Delegates will now consider the articles of impeachment.

Speaker pro-tem John Overington announced that the House will reconvene at 10 a.m. Monday.

5:39 p.m. That’s it for the original articles, but now there are two more being offered by delegates.

Delegate Andrew Robinson says the first has to do with Justice Loughry having personal pictures framed with state dollars. Robinson says some personal items that were framed are no longer in the Supreme Court’s possession.

Chairman John Shott after a long debate: “Is there anyone who believes that if the Senate rejects the other articles against Justice Loughry that they’ll impeach him on this one?”

He apologizes then for getting sassy but says it is getting late.

This passed, 12-10 with two absences.

5:11 p.m. Thirteen articles of impeachment have now passed. One has been voted down.

We have one more.

Up now is Article 13, which has to do with Justice Workman “requiring and encouraging the unnecessary hiring and retention of employees, and contracting of services, some instances of which constituted the apparent repayment of political favors to former campaign workers.”

Delegate Shawn Fluharty, D-Ohio, asks if the salaries of those who were hired were out of line with market rate. He also asks if political appointments don’t happen on a regular basis around the Capitol.

Delegate Pushkin on hiring as a political favor: “While it’s distasteful and looks bad, it’s very, very common.”

Delegate Fleischauer says the evidence on this article “is really flimsy.”

The vote on Article 13: 10 ayes, 13 nays, two absences.

So that one is rejected, the second to be voted down.

5:10 p.m. Article 12, having to do with the cost of renovating Justice Workman’s office, passes with 13 ayes, 10 nays and two absences. Pretty narrow vote.

4:51 p.m. We’re on Article 12, which has to do with Justice Workman’s office. It was the least expensive of the five, but still $111,000. Wide plank cherry flooring is specified in the article.

Justice Workman was in her office during yesterday’s Judiciary Committee tour of the court.

“Where I spent the money that I spent was on permanent fixtures, all the built in cabinets, shelving and flooring that will be here a hundred years from now,” Workman said during the tour.

Chief Justice Workman talks with Delegate Tom Fast during a tour inside the court offices of the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals.

Craig Hudson/Charleston Gazette-Mail

Delegate Moore Capito, R-Kanawha, is asking about how long Workman has been on the bench. She served a term from 1988 to 2000 and then was elected again in 2008. Capito wants to know if this kind of spending is an isolated incident over all that time.

Delegate Phil Isner, D-Randolph, says he has gone the other way on the articles regarding the previous justices’ office renovations. He says he didn’t feel like Workman’s was “substantially out of the norm.” Notes she was there to answer questions.

Delegate Andrew Robinson, D-Kanawha, says this will set a precedent on the level of an acceptable office remodel: $111,000. “If we’re going to set the bar at $111,000, we shouldn’t use situational morals.”

4:43 p.m. Now on Article 10, which has to do with the renovation and remodeling of Justice Davis’s office.

The work on Justice Davis’s office was tallied at $500,000. It included an oval rug of $20,500, a desk chair of $8,000 and more than $23,000 in design services “and other such wasteful expenditure not necessary for the administration of justice and the execution of the duties of the Court, which represents a waste of state funds.”

Article 10 vote: 19 ayes, 4 nays, 2 absent.

So Article 10 passes.

4:22 p.m. We’re back and discussing Article 9, which has to do with Justice Walker outsourcing the writing of an opinion “for unnecessary and lavish spending in that she hired outside counsel to craft a legal opinion of the court, in the case styled Quicken Loans, Inc. v Walters and for which competent assistance in the form of personal clerks was provided to facilitate the execution of the same.”

Delegate Mike Pushkin, D-Kanawha, asks whether there was testimony or other evidence about this article over the past few weeks.

Delegate Fluharty, D-Ohio, speaks against the article: “I don’t believe this rises to the level of an impeachable offense,” noting that outside counsel is hired for a variety of issues in state government.

The vote: 9 ayes, 14 nays, two absences.

Article 9 is rejected.

Our first rejection.

3:55 p.m. Article 8, dealing with Justice Walker’s office renovations, passes 16-8 with one absence. I heard more cross-party voting on that one.

10 articles of impeachment have now passed. Five to go, unless another one is hatched.

We’re taking a little break. Until 4:15 p.m.

3:40 p.m. Article 7, dealing with the spending on Justice Loughry’s office remodeling is adopted 21 ayes, 3 nays, one absence.

We move now to Article 8, which deals with the expense of remodeling Justice Walker’s office.

That article lists the cost of Walker’s office renovation at $131,000 and notes that it had been remodeled seven years prior to that under previous occupant Brent Benjamin.

We’ve now voted in favor of articles 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 11, 14 and the additional No. 15. That’s nine that have passed.

Also, a few minutes ago, Chairman Shott was asked when the full House might gather. He says there is no firm date. But possibly Monday or Tuesday of next week.

3:10 p.m. Back on Article 7, which has to do with Justice Loughry’s spending on the remodeling of his office.

Delegate Barbara Fleischauer, D-Monongalia, wonders where the line is on lavish spending, noting that the Legislature won’t have oversight of the Supreme Court’s budget unless/until passage of a constitutional amendment this fall.

Delegate Kelli Sobonya, R-Cabell, says she cried after a tour of Supreme Court offices yesterday, drawing a comparison with other areas where the state has stretched financial resources thin. “We have to treat every dollar, every penny, as if it’s our own. Because it’s the people’s money.”

Delegate Rodney Miller, D-Boone, says in contrast to Sobonya’s tears, “It made me mad.”

Delegate Tom Fast, R-Fayette, says he’s glad Democrats proposed that tour. “It was very eye opening. There’s nothing wrong with officials having stately office, nice walls, nice flooring, etc. But we need to keep in mind the offices we’re talking about here were areas of public accommodation.

“What we’re talking about were private places. And one of the things that really stuck out to me was the couch. You can go to a nice furniture store.”

Delegate John Overington, R-Berkeley, stands and holds up a Big Lots advertisement with some nice deals on couches. “This is what I think average West Virginians are looking at.”

“It is insulting,” says Overtington, who sat on Loughry’s $32,000 couch yesterday.

Delegate Mike Pushkin, D-Kanawha, wonders where the outrage was back in February when he proposed impeachment.

“Now I see an effort to capitalize on this entire affair by taking out an entire branch of government and replacing it through appointments,” Pushkin says.

Delegate Chad Lovejoy, D-Cabell, expresses support for constitutional amendment giving Legislature greater oversight of WV judicial spending. “I believe, unfortunately, the judiciary needs to have that supervision.”

But he says the appropriate remedy for overspending is at the ballot box. “The issue with extravagant spending is it’s a moving target.”

Delegate Mark Zatezalo, R-Hancock: “The Supreme Court has not even thought of controlling its own spending. That is a problem with trusting the Supreme Court.”

Zatezalo: “When trust in the court goes down, the republic is in trouble.”

He adds, “The people are looking to us to remedy this situation.”

Article 7 is adopted 21 ayes, 3 nays, one absence.

3:04 p.m. We are going to get a newly-hatched Article 15.

And that’s what happened. A lying under oath article — Article 15 — focused on Justice Loughry. It resulted from a failed amendment to Article 7, which dealt with the expense of Justice Loughry’s office remodeling.

Loughry discussed the remodeling while under oath before the House Finance Committee and is accused of telling some stretchers.

No one voted no on adding this article.

2:38 p.m. Article 7 deals with Justice Loughry’s $363,000 office remodel.

Delegate Andrew Robinson asks if that’s now the standard amount to be spent to necessitate impeachment.

Democrats have offered an amendment, adding language about Loughry lying under oath before House Finance about the expense.

2:35 p.m. Article 5 is adopted. That one deals with Justice Loughry’s private use of state vehicles.

That’s the eighth article to be adopted. Now to Article 7.

2:24 p.m. Here again is a DRAFT copy of the articles of impeachment we’re discussing here today. Justice Menis Ketchum, who resigned right before hearings were to begin, is not being considered for impeachment. But West Virginia’s other four sitting justices are.

By my count, half of the proposed articles have now passed the committee: 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 11 and 14. No. 5 is under discussion right now.

Draft Articles of Impeachment (1) (Text)

2:17 p.m. Article 2 passes on a voice vote. We’re now moving on to Article 3.

With the speed of light, Article 3 is now adopted. I heard no nos at all. This one was a Loughry-focused one about the Cass Gilbert desk that he took to his own home.

Article 4 also adopted. This one was about Loughry keeping a state computer at home for personal use. No nays heard by me.

Article 5, which deals with Justice Loughry’s use of state vehicles now under consideration.

2:02 p.m. Under discussion now is Article 2, which accuses all four remaining justices of failing to establish policies about remodeling state offices, travel budgets, computers for home use, framing of personal items, etc.

Delegate Miller, D-Boone, is asking if Justice Walker’s relatively short term — and never as chief justice — means she should be included here.

Delegate Fleischauer makes a case against Article 2: “I agree that all of these things should have been done. I also agree that most of these problems were based on behavior of the chief justice (Loughry), but I think adopting a resolution that would eliminate the entire sitting Supreme Court of WV because they didn’t have policies to prevent behavior that we all find troubling is reckless. For that reason, I’m voting no.”

The allegation is that the justices “in violation of their oaths of office, then and there, with regard to the discharge of the duties of their offices, did, in the absence of any policy to prevent or control expenditure, waste state funds with little or no concern for the costs to be borne by the taxpayers for unnecessary and lavish spending for various purposes including, but without limitation, to certain examples, such as:

  • to remodel state offices
  • for large increases in travel budgets — including unaccountable personal use of state vehicles
  • for unneeded computers for home use
  • for regular lunches from restaurants
  • and for framing of personal items and other such wasteful expenditure not necessary for the administration of justice and the execution of the duties of the Court

1:43 p.m. The vote on Article 1 is 17 ayes, 7 nayes and one absence. Article 1 is adopted.

I wish I had a roll call for you. It was a voice vote and went quickly. It broke mostly along party lines.

That one dealt with whether justices Davis and Workman signed off on circumventing state law for the overpayment of senior status judges.

Now we’re already voting on Article 6, which is a very similar allegation about Justice Loughry. This is 18 ayes, 6 nays, 1 absent.

Of Democrats, Delegate Shawn Fluharty voted yes on both Articles 1 and 6. Delegate Rodney Miller voted no on 1 and yes on 6.

We now move to Article 11, which similarly to Article 1, accuses Justice Davis of signing off on the overpayment of senior status judges, violating state code. There’s discussion of the overlap with Article 1.

Article 11 is adopted on a voice vote.

Now Article 14, which deals with Justice Workman individually. It also passes on a voice vote.

1:19 p.m. The early afternoon is getting chippy. Delegate Tom Fast, R-Fayette, defends the production of the articles under consideration right now, drawing a comparison with Democratic draft articles put out last week. Delegate Andrew Robinson, D-Kanawha, calls point of order.

Fast: “I support Article 1. I’m not saying it is 100 percent proven.” He’s saying it’s the House’s role to bring the allegation and for the proving to occur in the Senate trial.

Delegate Rodney Miller, D-Boone and a former sheriff: “This is so, so serious,” regarding the burden of proof and how the justices may be affected.

Miller says of Article 1: “We have to have a provable case. I don’t think we’re there yet.”

Miller, who is one of five case managers to present the case in the Senate: “We can’t haphazardly put something together, take it down the hall and have it blow up in our face.”

“This is heavy,” Miller says. “This is not just a game.”

Delegate Phil Isner, D-Randolph on Article 1: “In my view this does not rise to the level of impeachment.”

Delegate Geoff Foster, R-Putnam: “Of these issues, Article 1 addresses probably the most severe issue we have,” referring to the allegation of circumventing the law.

Delegate Kelli Sobonya, R-Cabell: “This court should be an example to the lower courts,” adding that she supports Article 1.

Delegate Barbara Fleischauer, D-Monongalia: “I believe this is a serious issue. I think this is a problem. But I don’t think this one is ripe. I’m a little surprised that it’s Article 1.”

1:07 p.m. We’re starting back up again this afternoon with a discussion of Article 1, which has to do with allegations that justices Workman and Davis and approval of payment of senior status judges that may have circumvented state law.

The allegation is that the former chief justices did “sign and approve the contracts necessary to facilitate, at each such relevant time to overpay certain Senior Status Judges in violation of the statutory limited maximum salary for such judges, which overpayment is a violation” of state code.

Delegate Chad Lovejoy, D-Cabell, is talking about how recently (yesterday morning) delegates received some of the information they are now weighing.

Delegate Fleischauer, D-Monongalia, says it’s not clear to her the code section has been violated. “We’d better have our ducks in a row.”

11:38 a.m. Chairman Shott has called a recess. We’ll continue at 1 p.m. with continued questions about the articles of impeachment.

11:19 a.m. Gov. Jim Justice, who could wind up appointing as many as four new justices to the state Supreme Court, weighed in with a brief comment this morning.

11:15 a.m. The conversation that’s been going on over the past few minutes is probably important — but a little in the weeds: Should there be findings of fact stated as part of the articles of impeachment?

Delegate Rodney Miller, D-Boone, asked: “If we are not technically sound, can that blow up in our face?” He was referring to when impeachment charges are brought up in trial in the Senate.

Delegate Fluharty, D-Ohio, asked: “When the articles were being drafted in the dark last night, did anyone bring up the issue of findings of fact?”

Republicans have been countering that such findings of fact are optional and were not included in the precedent from earlier impeachment proceedings in West Virginia. They also point out that the draft articles of impeachment produced by Democrats last week did not include findings of fact.

10:43 a.m. Here are DRAFT articles of impeachment. Don’t tell anyone where you got them.

Draft Articles of Impeachment (1) (Text)

The articles have this construction: [Justice is named], being a Justice of the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia, unmindful of the duties of his/her high office, and contrary to the oaths taken by him/her to support the Constitution of the State of West Virginia and faithfully discharge the duties of his/her office as such Justice, while in the exercise of the functions of the office of Justice, in violation of his/her oath of office, then and there, with regard to the discharge of the duties of his/her office did [state allegation]

10:20 a.m. Here was the discussion on MetroNews’ “Talkline” this morning about the possible impeachment of the remaining four justices on the West Virginia Supreme Court.

10:03 a.m. Here is the letter from the Supreme Court to the state Auditor, maintaining that opinions issued by the http://W.Va . Ethics Commission interpreting the state’s Ethics Act do not apply to the judicial branch of government.

Letter (Text)

9:52 a.m. Refresher. Here’s what the state Constitution says about impeachment: Any officer of the state may be impeached for maladministration, corruption, incompetency, gross immorality, neglect of duty, or any high crime or misdemeanor.

Delegate Barbara Fleischauer, the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, is asking if the articles spell out which of those is the aspect being considered.

Delegates are discussing what form articles of impeachment took over the few cases it has been considered over West Virginia’s history.

10:02 a.m. Here is the letter from the Supreme Court to the state Auditor, maintaining that opinions issued by the W.Va. Ethics Commission interpreting the state’s Ethics Act do not apply to the judicial branch of government. 

9:41 a.m. Judiciary Vice Chairman Roger Hanshaw moves that the articles be considered by the committee for consideration by the full House of Delegates.

Sounds like the full House has the ability to consider addition articles if there is evidence. There’s a discussion between Shott and Delegate Fleischauer, the ranking Democrat.

Fleischauer is asking about a recess to consider the articles. Shott notes that Democrats put out a statement last week, asking for immediate consideration of impeachment.

“We are proposing something monumental, which is removing all of the members of the third branch of government.” She says she did not know until this morning that articles would go that far.

9:18 a.m. Judiciary Chairman John Shott has announced that articles of impeachment will be discussed today. Delegates have received a packet of charges, which are being explained now.

Staff counsel Brian Casto is describing the articles. Delegate Rodney Miller calls a point of order, wondering if this would end the introduction of any more evidence.

Casto continues, describing a charge related to justices Workman and Davis, saying that when they served as chief justice they pursued a policy to overpay senior status judges, violating state code.

Now on to Article 2. Staff counsel describes a charge against justices Workman, Davis, Walker Loughry failing to discharge their duties of office because of not controlling the expenses of the office. This includes the office renovations, plus the lunches, use of state equipment at home, etc. Includes failing to report taxable fringe benefits.

Article 3 relates specifically to Justice Loughry. This is about taking home the Cass Gilbert desk, an antique and state property.

Article 4 has to do with Loughry also: Using state computer equipment and hardware for personal use.

Article 5 again on Loughry. Says he used state vehicles for personal use, plus a fuel purchasing card, for book signings and sales. “Such acts enriched his family.”

Article 6 again on Loughry, back on the overpayment of senior status judges issue.

Article 7, again on Loughry. This is about Loughry’s office remodeling and its accompanying expenses. “Not necessary for the execution of justice.”

Article 8, this time specifying Justice Walker and the expense of her office renovation.

Article 9, again on Walker, for outsourcing the writing of an opinion at a significant cost.

Article 10 singles out Justice Davis for the expenses of her office remodeling.

Article 11, again dealing with the overpayment of senior status judges. This one singles out Davis.

Article 12 on Justice Workman. This has to do with the remodeling of her personal office. Justice Workman was present in her office yesterday to greet delegates and to make the case that she had not over-spent.

Article 13 on Justice Workman, saying she made sure favored people were hired for the court, often for no important work purpose.

Article 14 is Justice Workman, having to do with the senior status judges issue.

8:58 a.m. Activity picks up in the House of Delegates Chamber this morning after a high-profile tour of the Supreme Court on Monday.

This is the eighth day of proceedings in the House Chamber. The first day of impeachment testimony was July 12.

The remainder of Monday’s activity centered around the testimony of Susan Racer-Troy, director of the finance division for the court.



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