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Lawmaker files court action, seeking to have Gov. Justice live in Kanawha County

Del. Isaac Sponaugle, D-Pendleton, filed a petition in court, seeking to require West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice to live in Kanawha County where taxpayers pay for a Governor's Mansion. (West Virginia Legislature/WCHS/WVAH)

Citing a section of the West Virginia Constitution that he said requires the governor to live at "the seat of government,” a West Virginia lawmaker has filed a petition seeking a court order to force Gov. Jim Justice to live in Kanawha County where taxpayers pay for a Governor's Mansion.

Del. Isaac Sponaugle, D-Pendleton, filed the petition against Justice Thursday in Kanawha County Circuit Court. He cites a section of the constitution that says the state’s “executive department,” consisting of the governor, secretary of state, auditor, treasurer, commissioner of agriculture and attorney general “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.”

In an interview with Hoppy Kercheval on Talkline on MetroNews Thursday, Sponaugle talked about why he is pushing for the governor to live in the seat of government.

“First off, it is a constitutional requirement of office,” Sponaugle said. “I believe due to his chronic absenteeism at the Capitol, we’ve had various scandals going on with West Virginia RISE. The money is not being put out. There is no communication between agency secretaries. It’s just one thing after another. It’s sort of disorganized. I believe if you are there, things will run much more smoothly.”

Meanwhile, Justice, who lives in Greenbrier County, has bristled at criticism from lawmakers about him not being at the Capitol and not living at the Governor’s Mansion.

During a news conference on Monday when he gave an update on the Public Employees Agency, Justice said he has accomplished a lot since he has taken office and does not need to have someone catering to him at the Governor’s Mansion.

“I work all the time, all the time, and I’m very, very proud to do that,” Justice said. “When you basically say to me, or imply that I’m not on the job or not working, that is just getting right in my stuff and that crawls all over me because I know none of you have a clue about how much I work and how much I do.”

The governor put up two white boards – one that was headlined “Waste” and the other as “Results.” The “Waste” board listed all of the things the governor said would be a waste of time if he lived at the mansion and had his every need catered to there. The “Results” board listed all of the things he believes he has accomplished.

“I could sit if you want me to sit and do what we have done in the past that has drove us into no man’s land," Justice said Monday. "If I just hung out at the mansion and do what people have done in the past. I don’t need somebody to cook for me, clean the laundry, make my bed, clean my bathroom, drive me everywhere I go, have a party every other night with red wine or rum – the choices of whomever was there in the past. I don’t need that. I don’t drink. I don’t need that. I don’t need you to pay my salary, pay my insurance or cater to my every whim.”

The governor said he has a cell phone, “knows what’s going on” and keeps in constant contact with his staff.

“I’ve got a cell phone. I don’t need someone waiting on me. I don’t need someone to drive me and buy my gas. I don’t need somebody kissing my butt just because I was elected governor,” he said.

Justice said he has gotten the state out of debt, obtained a 5 percent raise for teachers, turned around corrections, changed the entire footprint of education, created an $8 per year pass residents can buy to drive on the Turnpike, created a retirement exemption for veterans, passed a $3 billion road bond that will create tens of thousands of jobs, identified and fixed the flood relief problem and is getting coal miners back to work.

“Your argument is, if you were there, we’d get more done. I would say to you, are you not living in an absolute cave? Have you not seen what we have done?” Justice said.

A news release from the governor's office Thursday said the governor's counsel believes the petition filed by Sponaugle is without merit.

"The petition is filled with falsehoods, and we will address each and every one at the proper time," Justice said in the release. "It's a shame that Delegate Sponaugle has chosen to engage in a political stunt that has no purpose but to waste the valuable time and resources of the executive branch and the West Virginia court system. Delegate Sponaugle, a far-left politician, never brought this up when I was a Democrat, but now that an election year is upon us he chose to file this lawsuit to score cheap political points."

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