CHARLESTON – In the wake of a Charleston newspaper column referencing it, state Supreme Court employees removed a leather couch from Chief Justice Allen Loughry’s home.
Charleston Gazette-Mail political writer and columnist Phil Kabler mentioned the couch in his Nov. 25 column.
“Meanwhile, the question circulating around the Capitol is, what happened to the blue-green leather couch that was in Justice Allen Loughry’s office when he was sworn in back in December 2012?” Kabler wrote. “The couch was purchased for late Justice Joe Albright, and apparently disappeared somewhere between the court and Surplus Property.”
On Nov. 27, witnesses said they saw workers remove the couch from Loughry’s home and load it into a state government van.
Loughry said the couch wasn’t state property and was purchased by Albright. Loughry took over that office when he became a justice in 2012. Justice Tom McHugh used the office between Albright’s death in 2009 and Loughry’s election, but he reportedly made no changes to the office.
“The couch you are referring to is not state property,” Loughry said in a statement. “It was never state property. It was the property of Justice Joe Albright. He purchased all of the furniture in his office. After he passed away, his family said they had no further use for it and they did not want the couch returned to them.
“Nonetheless, I am so sick of the lies and innuendo coming from our fired, disgruntled former administrator Steve Canterbury that I had the couch taken back to the Supreme Court warehouse.”
Loughry also said he contacted Albright’s widow and son, and both told him they didn’t want the couch.
“He told me he did not want the couch and for me to keep it,” Loughry said, referring to Joe Albright Jr. “This is not state property. However, as I said previously, I am not keeping it, and the state can have it.”
Earlier this month, WCHS/WVAH Eyewitness News reporter Kennie Bass first detailed the expenditures in a Nov. 13 report. Since 2009, the state Supreme Court offices have undergone extensive renovations. The original price tag was about $900,000. But it since has grown to more than $3.7 million.
Loughry’s chambers saw renovations to the tune of $363,000. That includes a sectional sofa that cost nearly $32,000 including $1,700 in throw pillows.
Loughry places the blame squarely on Canterbury, who was fired in January shortly after Loughry became Chief Justice.
Canterbury, on the other hand, says he was just doing as his bosses – Loughry and the other Justices – wished. But he doesn’t mince words about Loughry.
“He had picked out the fabric,” Canterbury said on a local talk radio show. “It’s the fabric that makes that just outrageously expensive.
“When I saw what it (the cost) was going to be, I looked at him and said, ‘This is going to be a lot of money.’ I’ll never forget it. He (Loughry) said, ‘If it comes out, I’ll just blame you. You’re the administrator. You sign off on this.'”
Loughry called it “absolutely outrageous” that Canterbury would spend that much state money.
“I think it’s absolutely outrageous, and these decisions were made solely by the former administrative director,” he told The Record. “I’m outraged by this and other examples of Mr. Canterbury’s mismanagement of the court’s assets.
“After all, while I am Chief Justice, I’m still a citizen and taxpayer of this state. And I simply will not stand for this behavior. When I became the Chief Justice in January of this year, I ordered an immediate investigation into Mr. Canterbury’s spending and business practices. Some of the things I have discovered have been so troubling to me that I have personally contacted the United States Attorney’s Office.”