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Wednesday, April 18, 2018

I thought we got of rid of Darrell McGraw

"Two state Supreme Court justices drove state vehicles for personal use without properly claiming the perk as a taxable fringe benefit, a legislative audit has concluded," Brad McElhinny of Metro News reported.

Hey, how did Darrell McGraw wind up back on the state Supreme Court? I thought he turned in his judicial robe 30 years ago. McGraw took a state van for a family vacation in the wild West. He cited "judicial purposes."

But no, Brother Darrell is not on the court.

Allen Loughry and Menis Ketchum are.

It turns out that when Justice Loughry is not buying $32,000 couches on the state's credit card, he is signing out state cars to drive around. Like Darrell McGraw, Loughry does not bother having a legitimate purpose.

To be fair, Ketchum doesn't either. Most of Ketchum's car use was for commuting between his home in Huntington and the court in Charleston.

Maybe he should have thought about that commute before he sought the office.

"Justices Allen Loughry and Menis Ketchum also may have violated the state Ethics Act’s provision prohibiting the use of public office for private gain," McElhinny said citing the audit.

Chris Dickerson of the West Virginia Record wrote of audit, "It says during those four years, Ketchum drove the vehicle 78,423 miles, purchased fuel 312 times and spent a total of $12,250.04. Ketchum stopped using the state vehicle in 2016 and started submitting mileage reimbursements of 15 cents per mile that total $2,028. He reimbursed the state almost $1,750 of that because of double billing, a mistake he credits to a court employee."

Mileage? Surely we are not paying him to commute.

Ketchum is accepting no responsibility.

"When the amended W-2s are given to me, I will fully comply by paying any taxes due for use of the state automobile," Ketchum wrote.

More from the audit itself, "Notably, Justice Loughry had a state vehicle for 27 consecutive days through the Christmas and New Year’s holidays from December 10, 2014 to January 5, 2015. The Supreme Court of Appeals was in recess during all the December dates, and no destination or substantiation is listed for any of these time frames. The Legislative Auditor is unable to find any purposes for which Justice Loughry used the vehicles during the December months."

Kennie Bass of WCHS broke an earlier story about abuse of taxpayers by justice in the remodeling of the Supreme Court.

"The original estimate for the upgrades was about $900,000. That has since ballooned to more than $3.7 million," Bass reported in November.

Which brings us to the $32,000 couch. Bass asked him, "Why is there a couch that cost more than $30,000 in your chambers?"

Loughry said, "Kennie, it's absolutely outrageous that the prior administrative director would spend that much money on a couch with state money. I think it's outrageous, and I think it's shameful."

So he blamed Steve Canterbury. I am puzzled by how Loughry didn't notice that there was a $32,000 couch in his office. Talk about the elephant in the room.

The extravagance extended to Robin Davis who had taxpayers buy her an $8,098 office chair.

"I have arthritis in my spine and it allows me to sit here for hours on end. And I chose the chair," Davis told Bass.

Her two rugs cost $28,194, but she said they will last 50 years. For that price, they should last 1,000 years. Maybe the Gazette should hire Robin Leach because our justices seem bent on living the Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.

If you want to live like Donald Trump, build a few skyscrapers -- and pay for it with your own money.

And another thing, their renovations don't seem in keeping with Cass Gilbert's original design.

But the justices treat the people's offices like the spaces are their office. And I doubt this attitude by state officeholders is limited to justices. Someone should tell them to knock it off. I am hampered by this terribly corny notion that we elect people to serve the state, not themselves. To quote a famous community organizer, you didn't build this.

Loughry isn't talking about using a state car for private purposes. Darrell McGraw didn't like explaining himself either.

"The records concerning Loughry's state vehicle usage are far from detailed. On many of the forms, no destination nor purpose for the trip were given. And the timing of many of Loughry's reservations raise additional questions. He has several instances of requesting a vehicle on a Friday for use over the weekend, returning it on Monday. Each year, the court traditionally goes into recess during the summer and month of December. Loughry has several instances of reserving a vehicle when the court was not in session," Bass reported recently.

This was why we included maladministration, incompetency, or neglect of duty among reasons for an impeachment. You don't have to break a law to be fired.

Blaming the court administrator for the extravagance is like blaming the waiter for the double chocolate dessert you ordered.

Loughry ran as a clean candidate who did not take money from special interests. Instead he funded his campaign largely with taxpayer money.

Taking taxpayer money turned out to be a bad habit. He needs to break it. Fast.

Ask Darrell McGraw.

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6 comments:

  1. My former boss, Mario (the best I’ve had in my life, BTW), used to tell me, Kelly, I spend the company’s money as if it were my own. A very wise man.

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  2. Why are judges treated like royalty and the courthouses, courtrooms and chambers made to look like something out of Downton Abbey (and furnished similarly).

    Only time I saw a "budget" court was a Justice of the Peace in Texas where I had to pay a speeding ticket. His office/court was in a strip mall and was no more formally outfitted than a 7-11.

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  3. Party not reported. Gee. I wonder what party they ran on.

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  4. I'm tired of hearing about all these extravagant office remodels; both parties are doing it on the state and federal level. How about offices get remodeled every 15 years and it shouldn't take more than $20K per office, at the most. Good God, and they wonder why bitch about paying taxes.

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  5. And I remember when they had that massive federal credit card audit years ago; people bought fake boobs, vacations to New Orleans, massive tabs at strip joints, etc. All of us would be fired for pulling that crap, of course nobody was fired, and I wonder how many paid the taxpayers back. And they wonder why we get pissed...

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  6. The biggest offender here is a Republican. Interesting how that is conveniently left out of post.

    Citing lots of Charleston news media as sources. I guess they aren't fake like the national ones.

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