Better order in the court needed

Questions about how the West Virginia Supreme Court uses taxpayers’ money continue to be brought up. They reinforce a feeling among some that something is badly wrong in the high court’s offices.

Last fall, the story was lavish spending on furniture and remodeling in the court’s offices. Perhaps the most upsetting expenditure was $32,000 for a couch in Justice Allen Loughry’s office.

There are some in West Virginia who don’t spend that much on a house.

Much of the waste then was blamed on former court administrator Steve Canterbury, who countered that justices were well aware of how much was being spent.

Now, questions have moved to another topic, use of state vehicles and spending on rental cars.

Just a few days ago, state legislators were informed of an updated audit on Supreme Court spending. Among other things, it pointed out that Canterbury, while in his court post and attending professional conferences, sometimes extended his stays for vacation purposes. He failed to reimburse the state enough for personal travel expenses, auditors found.

Earlier this month, Canterbury sent the state a $911.04 check to cover the discrepancy.

There was more:

Unusually high use of rental cars by Loughry while he was attending conferences was cited by auditors. They suggested he may have allowed other people to use rental cars for non-public purposes.

And, auditors found that Justice Menis Ketchum was allowed to use a state car to commute to work for a time — but high court officials did not report that as a fringe benefit to the Internal Revenue Service.

Chief Justice Margaret Workman insists reforms have been put in place.

Perhaps so, but the fact remains that until reporters and state auditors looked into court finances, serious misspending occurred.

No doubt some of it is blamed on human error. But if so, failures such as not telling the IRS about Ketchum’s use of a state car have to be ranked as rookie mistakes — the kind one would not expect from the state’s top court.

Misspending on furniture, remodeling and now vehicles raise a troubling question about the court:

What’s next?

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