Investigation: Tracking West Virginia Supreme Court furniture owned by the state
Eyewitness News has already revealed spending and costs related to West Virginia Supreme Court renovations and remodeling. Those costs ballooned from less than $1 million to more than $3 million over a number of years. We have told you about a $32,000 couch, $8,000 office chair and $100,000 private bathroom.
Now, the story of Chief Justice Allen Loughry using state-owned furniture at his home and why those items are now back at the court's warehouse.
This is the historic Cass Gilbert executive desk and couch that Loughry had in his Charleston home for years.
Shortly after Eyewitness News inquired about the location of the couch, which used to be in the Supreme Court's chambers, Loughry had state workers move it here to the court's Kanawha City warehouse. Shortly after, Loughry also had the Cass Gilbert desk taken from his home and placed here.
After our initial request to video this furniture was rejected, Eyewitness News filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the court to gain access to the warehouse.
Loughry has contended that the couch was not public property. He said it was left by the family of former Justice Joe Albright when he passed away in 2009. Loughry said that means the couch was abandoned. When Loughry replaced the sofa with a $32,000 sectional, the justice told the court's former administrative director what he planned to do with it.
"He said he liked it and he thought that since he was going to have an office at home where he did the court's work it would be appropriate for him to take it to home to that office," Steve Canterbury, the former administrative director of the court, said. "No one had ever said that to me before, no justice had ever said it so it caught me a bit unawares. But I basically said what I usually said to him, 'You're in charge, you're the boss, if that's what you want to do.' I said I'll volunteer to get some people together to move it for you. He said, no, he would take care of it and he would take care of it over the weekend because he thought that he wouldn't want to get in anybody's way."
We didn't ask Canterbury about this Cass Gilbert desk, because neither we nor he knew that Loughry had it.
The court's public information officer said there are aware of four Cass Gilbert desks. One is the one now in the warehouse. Another sits in the chambers of Justice Menis Ketchum. The court's chief of security and a law clerk are using the other two.
But, that means one of the original five desks appears to be missing. We are checking with the Division of Culture and History to nail down exactly how many of these treasures the court had, and what may have happened to them.
"I should have probably said lets take it to the other members of the court to have a little discussion about this," Canterbury said. "But it was in the heady days of his first few weeks on the court and I suspect they would has said sure. But I don't know, they may have had some protest about it. But I didn't. I instead said, 'You're the boss. If you want to take it home, take it home.' "
The West Virginia Supreme Court has responded to our FOIA request, which asks about a number of items and expenditures we want to examine. On Tuesday afternoon, we received a letter from the court's administrative counsel Christopher Morris. The court said it needs an additional 10 business days to process our FOIA request. That letter is included in the photo gallery for this story.