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Investigation: Webster County magistrate's schedule questioned

A window sign appears outside of the office of Webster County Magistrate Richard Robertson. An Eyewitness News investigation shows Robertson works a week, and then takes a week off, while still bringing home his $57,500 salary. (WCHS/WVAH)

Webster County has two magistrates, but only one works a full-time schedule.

Magistrate Ryan Bruffy is serving his first term. He is in the office every week Monday through Friday and is on call every other week.

It's a different schedule, however, for three-term Magistrate Richard Robertson. He works a week, and then takes a week off, while still bringing home his $57,500 salary.

That means he makes more than $55 an hour for the scheduled time he spends on the bench, while enjoying what amounts to 26 weeks of paid vacation.

The day we were in Webster County, perhaps not surprisingly, Robertson was not at work.

"Do I personally approve of it? I don't," Judge Jack Alsop with West Virginia's 14th Judicial Circuit said. "But I have not had a motion filed before me by an attorney or a request complaining about the schedule or complaining about not being able to get a hearing."

Robertson is able to set his own schedule because how the rule governing magistrate work hours is being interpreted by Alsop. The law says magistrates serving 5,000 or less in population only have to devote the time to their duties required by rule or regulation of the circuit court judge.

If Robertson was in a larger county, the code mandates he would be required to "devote full time to his or her public duties."

"In terms of whether or not it's the best schedule, I wouldn't step in if I didn't think it was the best schedule because I don't think I should substitute my judgment in that regards to a constitutional officer," Alsop said. "If I felt that the job wasn't being done, then I would step in in that regards. This has gone on for approximately eight years, but if the job wasn't being done then I would step in."

The West Virginia Supreme Court oversees the state's judiciary, but has no rules in place about how much magistrates actually have to work.

"One size fits all would not be a good way to manage people's time in counties that are so different in population," Jennifer Bundy, public information officer for the West Virginia Supreme Court said. "Some counties have several hundred thousand people and some counties have just a few thousand people. So what works in Kanawha County isn't going to work in Wirt County."

With the Supreme Court and circuit courts failing to step in an mandate how much Robertson should actually work, he will be free to continue putting in six months a year on a $57,000 annual salary provided by West Virginia taxpayers.

Eyewitness News tried to talk with Robertson about his schedule, but he refused our request.

Meanwhile, Webster County Magistrate Bruffy, his assistant, Robertson's assistant and the magistrate court clerk all put in 40-hour work weeks, every week.


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