CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WDTV) -- Delegates, selected members of the media, attorneys and counsel for House Democrats, Joe Altizer, were guided through an approximately 40-minute tour of the offices belonging to the current and former West Virginia Supreme Court Justices, as an investigation to determine whether one or all of the justices should be impeached continues.
The majority of the tour was spent in Justice Allen Loughry's office, which included the $32,000 couch revealed by the State Auditors' Office in a report that led to Loughry's current suspension, indictment, and the impeachment investigation.
In addition to the couch, the group took note of an inlaid wooden floor designed just for the justice, as well as Loughry's television and professionally framed photographs on the wall.
Chief Justice Margaret Workman greeted visitors at her office. She sat behind the desk as she pointed out the only renovations made by taxpayer dollars were a built-in wooden cabinet and flooring.
“Where I spent the money that I spent was on permanent fixtures, all the built in cabinets, shelving and flooring that will be here a hundred years from now,” Workman said.
During the tour, Chief Justice Workman spoke to a media pool representative about controversy surrounding the tour, which was postponed from its original date after the Supreme Court put out a statement titled “House Judiciary Committee tour not open to media, public."
Workman said there was an initial disagreement over rules for the tour.
“I welcome anybody who wants to come in and see these offices. We have never closed these offices off to the press. Kennie Bass was here and took pictures months and months ago. But Art Angus our security guy really wants the layout not be published," she stated. “With this day and age, I think we’re aware of shooters and possible dangers.”
"Originally, I think our staff had talked with Chairman Shott and they had agreed it wasn’t a public meeting and there really wasn’t any controversy. However, I know some of the members had said it should be open. We had no objection to that, except for anything related to security," she added.
Workman also addressed a letter sent by the court to the House Judiciary Committee that referred to the hearings as a “fishing expedition” due to the broadness of them.
“The concern was we just wanted to know what the rules of the proceeding were going to be. On one hand, it’s been likened to the way a grand jury functions and yet if it were like a grand jury the members wouldn’t be going on talk radio or serving dinner to a witness.”
Workman referred to court administrator Steve Canterbury. After Canterbury testified in an all-day hearing, and accepted the invitation to eat dinner prepared by Chairman Shott’s wife, which was offered to all the delegates and staff.
“We need to get information from all sides, not just a side with an ax to grind,” Workman said.
“Just remember everything in here belongs to me but that was what cost a few dollars as well as the floor. And those things will be here a few hundred years from now,” she said, pointing at the wood cabinets," she added at the interview's conclusion.
Delegates did not have many comments on Justice Beth Walker’s Office, but the conversation picked up in Justice Davis' office--the most expensive renovation. Items noted included two Edward Fields floor rubs with a value of $28,000 and a desk chair valued at $8,000, which Davis has claimed helps with arthritis pain.
Little was left of Justice Menis Ketchum's office, as his resignation from the court has already taken effect. However, there were framed personal items, such as newspaper clippings and other keepsakes that Ketchum has not been allowed to retrieve yet, as the framing was done with public funds and is part of the investigation.
Ketchum's office also contained a table and two desks associated with Capitol architect Cass Gilbert.
The tour also included a look at other areas of the office space, including the office of counsel and the Supreme Court chambers.