Delegate files third petition about governor's residency

By Kyla Asbury | Dec 18, 2018

CHARLESTON — A West Virginia delegate is making a third attempt to have a court find that Gov. Jim Justice is violating the state Constitution by not living in the seat of the government.

Del. Isaac Sponaugle (D-Pendleton) filed a writ of mandamus on Dec. 7 in Kanawha Circuit Court alleging that because Justice resides in his home in Lewisburg instead of in the Governor's Mansion in Charleston.

West Virginia code states that the governor, secretary of state, state superintendent of free schools, auditor, treasurer, attorney general and commissioner of agriculture must all live within the seat of the government, according to Sponaugle's writ of mandamus.

Sponaugle claims Justice has not resided in the seat of the government for more than 30 days since he took office in January 2017.

"This is despite housing afforded to him at the West Virginia Governor's Mansion..." the writ states. "Respondent by his own public admissions has not and continues to reside in Greenbrier County, West Virginia, in lieu of Charleston, West Virginia."

In the petition, Sponaugle notes that he is seeking the answer to whether or not it is mandatory for the governor to reside at the seat of government during the terms of office.

Justice has admitted to staying in the Governor's Mansion no more than a handful of nights since he took office.

In September, Sponaugle had filed the writ with the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals. In November, the Supreme Court issued an order refusing the writ.

"Upon consideration and review, the Court is of the opinion that a rule should not be awarded, and the writ prayed for by the petitioner is hereby refused," the Supreme Court order stated.

Sponaugle also previously filed the lawsuit in Kanawha Circuit Court back in June but had failed to provide the state the required 30 days notice before filing. It was then dismissed.

Sponaugle claims Justice does not come to Charleston to work regularly and that members of the West Virginia Legislature have raised concerns over Justice's "chronic absenteeism" and its effect on the productivity of state government.

Back in June, during a press conference, Justice said, “I’ll only stay at the Mansion when it’s convenient to me."

The first time the lawsuit was filed, Justice released a statement regarding the lawsuit in which he said the petition was filled with falsehoods of which he would address each and everyone at the proper time.

"It’s a shame that Delegate Sponaugle has chosen to engage in a political stunt that has no purpose but to waste the valuable time and resources of the executive branch and the West Virginia court system. 

"Delegate Sponaugle, a far-left politician, never brought this up when I was a Democrat, but now that an election year is upon us he chose to file this lawsuit to score cheap political points.

"Frankly, I don’t want to waste our people’s money, have people cook for me, do laundry, let me have party after party on the taxpayer’s dime and cater to my every whim. I’m here to serve, not to be served.”

Sponaugle did not immediately return request for comment.

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