In most parts of West Virginia, you can buy a nice house for less than that. For $300-$500,000, you can get a really nice place … even in Charleston.
$111,000 is what was spent to refurbish the office of State Supreme Court Justice Margaret Workman. That includes more than $8,000 for a sofa – or should we say, divan?
We might think it's crazy to spend more money renovating an office than most West Virginians spend to buy a home, but, if a person's spending his own money, he can do what he wants and it's really none of our business. Workman, of course, did not spend her own money. It was your money.
It gets better – which is to say, worse.
Workman was not the biggest spendthrift on the court. She was comparatively frugal, in fact. Workman's workplace whimsies were relatively modest.
Justice Beth Walker’s chamber renovations cost more than $130,000. Of course, the price tag might have been higher, had the same office not been renovated in 2010 for former Justice Brent Benjamin at a cost of more than $264,000.
Justice Menis Ketchum’s chamber renovations cost $194,000, and Chief Justice Allen Loughry’s $363,000 (including a $32,000 sofa).
More than $500,000 of taxpayer money was spent on Justice Robin Davis’ office – with $433,000 going for construction. At least she did pay for some of the furniture out of her own pocket. Maybe she’ll donate it when she leaves the bench.
Now, in these frugal times, there is lots of finger-pointing at who’s responsible for all the spending. That fogs the issue nicely at the moment. But there is no justification for spending $3.7 million on judicial chambers. And the Chief Justices, including Loughry, were in charge, period.
State Senate President Mitch Carmichael, House Speaker Tim Armstead and others want West Virginians to vote on a constitutional amendment to give our legislature authority over the Supreme Court's budget. That might be an improvement over the current situation.