CHARLESTON – More questions are surfacing involving who signed off on some of the renovations to the offices of state Supreme Court justices.
In his latest report, WCHS-TV reporter Kennie Bass focuses on the wood medallion placed on the floor of Chief Justice Allen Loughry’s chambers. The circle features the state of West Virginia with each county cut from a different piece of wood. Tucker County, Loughry’s home county, is made of blue granite.
In November, Bass first detailed other state Supreme Court expenditures. Since 2009, court offices have undergone extensive renovations. The original price tag was about $900,000 for the first round of renovations. But it since has grown to more than $3.7 million and include more areas of renovations.
In an earlier taped conversation with Bass, Loughry said he had “very little” to do with the 2013 renovations to his office.
“I mean, when I came into office, the renovations were a part of six and a half years of renovations, the first, third and fourth floors,” Loughry told Bass in November. “More than 96 percent of those renovations were completed by the time it came to my office.
“Mr. (Steve) Canterbury (former court administrator) put things together and came and asked for approval of, maybe do you like this desk or do you like this color or something like that."
Canterbury has said Loughry was more involved in the renovations to his office than any other justice.
“He was there almost every day," Canterbury told The West Virginia Record. “Sometimes, he would pop in there a few times a day from what I’ve been told. He stayed in constant contact with the workers. He knew exactly what he wanted.”
Canterbury made similar comments to Bass in a recent interview.
“He was there daily, often more than once," Canterbury told WCHS. “He could be found there easily enough if you needed to talk to him about anything. And you know, he was very, very specific about what he wanted.”
Documents from another WCHS Freedom of Information Act request show Loughry’s involvement.
Those documents show that on May 21, 2013, a meeting was held to discuss the cost estimate for Loughry's chambers. In an email, Loughry said the scheduled meeting time was “good for me.” Another document was a detailed analysis of the project’s costs. Two days later, Loughry was sent drawings showing custom wood cabinets and wall panels requested for his chambers. The cost for that was listed for $117,634.
“That is the first guiding document about what he wanted in his office,” Canterbury told The Record. “It was very early in the process, and it ended up pretty much as he sketched out.
“Powerful people get what they want. He had just been elected, and he was feeling the full feeling of being a Supreme Court justice. In other words, he was feeling pretty full of himself.”
Other emails obtained by WCHS show Loughry communicating with the project manager from Neighborgall Construction, asking about lead paint on radiators, work updates and delivery dates.
In June 2013, drawings showing the custom-made wood medallion. WCHS says one of the drawings of the floor design was made by Loughry. Other drawings have notes written on them by Loughry. Those notes include where a hidden television could be placed and where a hidden refrigerator could be placed.
“This could be a single chair, a wider chair, or even two love seats with a couch in the middle,” one note states. “Whatever works with the space. I just want it to look professional AND be comfortable.”
Eventually, a sectional couch that cost $32,000, including $1,700 for throw pillows, was put in that space.
Loughry told Bass the floor medallion is “certainly very nice.”
“I think that the price of the floor in my office is commensurate with the price of the floors in all of the other offices, with the exception of one which is actually more,” Loughry said. “But, Mr. Canterbury was in charge of these expenditures."
Canterbury said he isn’t shocked by anything shown in the documents and emails.
“None of it surprised me,” he told The Record. “I know the truth, and the truth tends to come out. These documents certainly brought out the truth that he was intimately involved with this remodeling. That’s what essentially I’ve been saying since Day One, and that’s what the emailed showed.
“He was very involved, and he knew what things cost. He was told the costs, but the emails also show he saw costs and estimates.
“I seem like a stuck record, but that’s the nature of the truth. There only is one story.”
The total cost for the work on Loughry's office was $363,013.43, including $75,533.43 for the couch, office chairs, cocktail tables, desks, credenza, cornices, wood blinds, pillows and cabinet hardware.
Earlier this week, Loughry did provide a statement to WCHS for Bass's latest story.
"I stand by my prior statement that I had no knowledge of the inflated and outrageous expenditures on furniture items such as the couch," Loughry said. "Any insinuation to the contrary is simply dishonest."