Timeline lists events leading to judicial conduct allegations against Loughry
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WCHS, WVAH) —
The West Virginia Investigation Commission's finding Wednesday that there is probable cause to charge state Supreme Court Justice Allen Loughry with multiple violations of the code of judicial conduct comes after months of reporting by Eyewitness News iTeam Lead Investigative Reporter Kennie Bass.
Now the Judicial Disciplinary Counsel is recommending he be suspended without pay.
In those stories, Bass documented lavish spending by the state's highest court, and in particular Loughry. His investigations are cited throughout the "statement of charges," saying what our iTeam uncovered is a clear violation of the public's trust. The complaint used Loughry's words - in interviews he did with Eyewitness News - against him, saying he was clearly lying.
Bass was the first to break the story of the questionable spending.
Here is a look at what the iTeam uncovered that led up to Wednesday's developments.
Our iTeam has been working on this story since August of last year. Our first report aired Nov. 14 revealing what we uncovered about the Supreme Court renovation costs that went from about $900,000 to more than $3.7 million. Included in those costs, the now infamous $32,000 couch and custom floor medallion in Loughry’s office, which he claimed he knew nothing about.
"Absolutely outrageous. The answer is no," Loughry said to claims he selected that couch and mandated the $20,000-plus in fabric changes for the couch.
Among other expenditures was a $9,000 office chair and $28,000 rugs in Justice Robin Davis’ office.
"You know, anything that is done in this office is on me,” Davis said.
The story revealed a flaw in the state’s constitution exempting the high court from direct budgetary oversight. Reaction was quick.
“I think everybody's upset about it, and I don't think it's at all partisan,” House Speaker Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha, said.
The story didn’t stop there. In the following days, we revealed other questionable spending by the justices, including a rug costing taxpayers more than $50,000 in a private hallway and a nearly $100,000 restroom and safe room for use by the justices.
Later in November, our investigation uncovered more questionable practices including state-owned office furniture purchased by justices. We also found, in one instance, Loughry had a couch and historic Cass Gilbert desk taken to his personal residence during a state holiday.
When the Legislature convened in January, it only took a week for lawmakers to pass legislation to put a constitutional amendment on the November ballot that would give more oversight to how the judicial branch spends its money.
“It raised some very valid concerns about the balance of power,” Sen. Greg Boso, R-Nicholas, said.
As our investigation continued through January and February, the iTeam found the court had spent thousands of dollars a year on lunches for justices and staff.
“I think we should definitely look into this kind of thing and, if necessary, impeach them. Impeach them all,” Del. Pat McGeehan, R-Hancock, said.
In May, a legislative audit found even more questionable spending and recordkeeping relating to the justices’ use of state-owned vehicles including several instances where there is no record of where the vehicles were being taken and for what purpose.
“There was no stated business reason for Justice Loughry’s travel,” said Aaron Allred, the state legislative auditor.