iTeam follow-up on more free lunch spending by W.Va. Supreme Court

Photo shows dinnerware emblazoned with the seal of the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals. (Eyewitness News Photo)

As our investigation into questionable spending practices by the West Virginia Supreme Court has continued, we have looked into a number of areas. That includes free meals the justices and staffers enjoyed at your expense.

Following up on our January report, we can now tell you that for nearly five years the court spent more than $42,000, eating from a number of Charleston-area restaurants and you picked up the tab.

Previously, the iTeam only looked at Supreme Court lunches purchased by taxpayers from 2016 and 2017.

But the court actually started eating on your dime back in March 2013.

The iTeam submitted a Freedom Of Information Act request to the court for meal receipts from 2013, 2014 and 2015.

Here is what we found.

In just 10 months in 2013, the court hosted 37 meals and spent $7,828.15. The justices' favorite eatery that year was Paterno's at the Park, which the court ordered from 14 times, spending more than $3,300 ($3,314.26).

Soho's was another favorite spot, providing 11 meals for more than $2,500 ($2,562.75).

In 2014, justices and staffers enjoyed a few less free meals. They ate 31 times, carrying a price tag of $6,937.63.

Soho's and Paterno's at the Park were once again the most popular spots for the court lunch bunch. Both restaurants were ordered from nine times each. The Soho's bill was more than $2,300 ($2,340.12). The Paterno's tab was about $400 less ($1,949.80).

Moving to 2015, court employees enjoyed 40 free lunches with taxpayers picking up the $8,311.56 check.

The justices looked for variety, ordering the most from South Hills Market and Cafe, spending $2,300 ($2,341.09) on a dozen meals.

When you add all of the free meals up, from March 2013 to November 2017, the West Virginia Supreme Court spent $42,401.41 of taxpayer money on 215 free lunches for justices and staffers.

On Dec. 29 of last year, Justice Beth Walker gave the court administrator a check for $2,019.24 to reimburse one-fifth of the amount spent on justice and staff lunches in 2017.

To date, she is the only justice to repay any money back.

We asked if any of the remaining four justices planned to repay their portion of the lunch tab.

We did the math and found that if divided equally, each is responsible for about $8,500 ($8,480.28).

We were told by a spokesperson that the court has no further comment on the matter.

As we mentioned earlier, the court ended the practice of taxpayer-funded meals at the end of last year, when word of our story got out.

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