CHARLESTON – The second part of an audit of the state Supreme Court took another look at use of state vehicles by justices and staff as well as other issues.
Among the findings in the May 20 release, the Legislative Auditor’s report shows Justice Robin Jean Davis used a court vehicle seven times, but no business purpose was provided. Also, former Administrative Director Steve Canterbury reserved a car six times with no purpose or destination listed. Also, Canterbury had 20 instances of rental car usage on business trips where some of the usage seemed to be for personal use, but he already has reimbursed the court for the difference.
Also, the drug court system purchased 529 gift cards worth $105,000 in 2016 and 2017 with a State Purchasing Card without permission from the State Auditor’s office. And, the Court did not provide information to the IRS regarding Justice Menis Ketchum’s use of a court vehicle for commuting when the court was audited regarding 2015 federal employment tax returns.
From 2011 to 2018, Davis reserved a state vehicle 75 times. Of those, there were seven trips that no court business was recorded or found through research. But Court Director of Security Arthur Angus drove Davis each time, and the locations for each trip were found.
Also, Davis attended a political fundraiser during one three-day period in 2011 when she had a state vehicle reserved. She attended an anti-truancy meeting in Wheeling on Nov. 14, then was driven to Parkersburg where she attended the fundraiser. The next day, she attended another anti-truancy event in Parkersburg before being driven back to Charleston. During the three days, Davis charged no lodging to the state and only charged $115 for food over the course of the three days.
Canterbury reserved a state vehicle 79 times from 2012 to 2016. In all but six of those times, court business was linked. But like with Davis, the auditor concluded there was no abuse of the system.
The audit also found 20 instances of Canterbury renting cars on business trips when some of the usage appeared to be for personal use.
“Canterbury drove a significant number of miles in these rental cars that are in excess of the round-trip mileage to and from the airport and hotel where he stayed,” the report states. “Based on the rental car receipts, some instances are more egregious than others.”
The audit cited a trip to Denver and Vail in which Canterbury drove the rental car for 1,922 miles, which is 1,678 miles more than the round-trip from the airport to the hotel. Another trip to Portland, Oregon, showed mileage of 798 miles, which was 773 more than the round trip from the airport to the hotel.
“While not all instances noted have excessive mileage over the round-trip distance to the airport and hotel, the Legislative Auditor questions the need for these rental cars in lieu of using some less expensive means of transportation such as a taxi, shuttle, or ride share service,” the report states. “As similarly noted for Justice Loughry’s use of a rental car in the April 16, 2018 Legislative Auditor’s report, Mr. Canterbury’s rental car use also appears to be for personal use at the cost of the state.”
As a result, the report says Canterbury was reimbursed for rental car expenses that he should not have been.
“Canterbury took additional ‘personal days’ in the location he traveled to, essentially as personal vacations,” the report states. “To account for the personal expenses related to his use of rental cars Mr. Canterbury attempted to pro-rate the rental car costs and seek reimbursement only for those costs that were associated with court business.”
It says Canterbury was reimbursed $911.04 too much. On May 10, Canterbury provided the Legislative Auditor with a copy of a letter he sent to current court Administrative Director Gary Johnson in which he said he made every effort to account for personal expenses. He wrote a check for the $911.04.
The report found no particular issues with Chief Justice Margaret Workman, Justice Beth Walker, former Justice Brent Benjamin or Johnson. It did show Benjamin had more travel expenses than the other justices, totaling almost $123,500 from 2010 to 2016.
“The Supreme Court of Appeals did not request this approval from the State Auditor’s Office and, therefore, was in violation of those Purchasing Card policies,” the report states.
Also, the Legislative Auditor determined the court did not provide information regarding Ketchum’s use of a court vehicle for commuting during the IRS audit of the court’s 2015 federal employment tax returns.
The first part of the audit report released last month focused on use of state vehicles for personal use by Ketchum and Justice Allen Loughry.
It showed Ketchum regularly used a 2007 state-owned Buick Lucerne to commute to Charleston from his Huntington home for four years. But, the report says he also took the car on some golf trips in Virginia. It says Ketchum obtained permission from his fellow Justices in 2012 to use a state vehicle for his commute, a practice that is common among state agencies.
As for Loughry, the auditor’s report says he used a 2009 Buick Lucerne, a 2012 Buick LaCrosse and other vehicles. It says he reserved a car for 212 days from 2013 to 2016, and that there were no destination listed on 148 of those days. Many of those days were in December when the Court is on a break.