Supreme Court refuses Weeks' pay raise case

By Chris Dickerson | Jun 26, 2008


CHARLESTON -- The state Supreme Court on Thursday refused a case filed by the Republican gubernatorial candidate that argued that Legislators violated the state Constitution by voting to give themselves a raise.

The Justices rejected Russ Weeks' case unanimously.

Weeks filed the suit after a bill passed earlier this year gave lawmakers a $5,000 pay raise beginning next year. That would increase their salaries to $20,000 a year. It also increased their per diem expenses by $16 a day, and the expense portion was retroactive to January. House Bill 4076 increased per diem benefits from $115 to $131.

The Supreme Court order provided no reason for the denial.

Weeks claimed the bill violates certain provisions of the state constitution "by embracing subjects in addition to legislators' compensation and salaries," the petition says. Weeks' claims the legislators are retroactively collecting $1,120 from the increase.

On his Web site, Weeks said he filed the suit as a taxpayer and for other state residents.

"The citizens of our state deserve representation that is responsive and respectful to the average West Virginian," Weeks said in a statement on the site. "In no other walk of life can a person give himself an increase in pay, and then collect it from past service.

"The arrogance of the legislative leadership in supporting this kind of activity is shameful."

Weeks claimed the state Constitution assures the people that public officers would give their services during their terms for the amount of compensation for which they were willing to serve. The suit says the per diem increase violates the constitution and the bond the legislators made to those who elected them to office.

Former South Charleston mayor Richie Robb, a Democrat, is representing Weeks.

In filing the suit, Weeks took the unusual step of filing with the state Supreme Court rather than in Kanawha Circuit Court. Because of the constitutional issues involved, and since the Supreme Court does have original jurisdiction in such matters, Robb had said it was the more appropriate forum.

"Since Russ felt the governor and legislature were responsible for the raise, this seemed best forum and process to hold them accountable," he told The Record last month.

The suit, filed as a Writ of Mandamus, named Manchin as the lead defendant. Named as co-defendants were Senate President Earl Ray Tomblin (D-Logan), House Speaker Richard Thompson (D-Wayne), state Auditor Glen B. Gainer III and state Treasurer John D. Perdue.

Manchin and Weeks are opponents in this year's gubernatorial contest.

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