West Virginia Record

Saturday, December 14, 2019

JIC dismisses complaint regarding Workman's lease to state agency

State Supreme Court

By Chris Dickerson | Dec 2, 2019

Wvrheroworkman

CHARLESTON – A Judicial Investigation Commission complaint against state Supreme Court Justice Margaret Workman filed by the former Supreme Court administrator has been dismissed.

Steve Canterbury filed his JIC complaint against Workman this summer, saying her leasing a house to the state Public Employees Grievance Board for 10 years violated at least one Code of Judicial Conduct.

“Her financial arrangement is in clear violation of the Code of Conduct, Rule 3.12 (C) (2): ‘A judge shall not engage in financial activities permitted under paragraphs (A) and (B) if they will lead to frequent disqualification of the judge,” Canterbury wrote in his JIC complaint.


Canterbury

Canterbury, who was fired by former Chief Justice and current federal prisoner Allen Loughry almost three years ago, also said Workman’s recusal from all cases involving the PEGB creates additional costs of bringing in senior status judges to hear Grievance Board appeals.

Citing a previous West Virginia Record story, Canterbury also questioned the amount of the lease.

"Justice Workman was most recently receiving $7,500 per month, a rent found in Class A office space which her building certainly is not," Canterbury wrote. "Reasonable people might question such an exorbitant rent."

But, the JIC dismissed Canterbury’s complaint, saying the statute of limitations had expired.

“The evidence indicates that Justice Workman first rented her former law office to the Grievance Board from July 2009 through June 30, 2019,” JIC Chairman Alan Moats wrote. “The first Grievance Board case that Justice Workman recused herself from was Nov. 12, 2009.

“Justice Workman’s notice of disqualification and subsequent recusal orders were and are on file at the Supreme Court Clerk’s Office and are a matter of public record.”

Moats noted that there was a two-year statute of limitations from the time “the complainant knew, or in the exercise of reasonable diligence should have known, of the existence of a violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct.”

For more than three years, the PEGB paid $7,500 per month to Workman to rent its former headquarters near the state Capitol. In April, PEGB board members formally approved a plan to move its offices from 1596 Kanawha Blvd. East to the Schoenbaum Center in Charleston’s West Side. The move is saving the board nearly $30,000 a year annually in rent.

In addition to the $90,000 annual lease at the current location owned by Workman, PEGB Director James Cox says the board also paid about $12,000 a year for utilities. The lease at the Schoenbaum Center is $6,021 per month or $72,252 annually.

After the lease went into effect in 2009, Workman recused herself from all cases involving the PEGB.

“When I have no further business association with the board, there will no longer be a basis for recusal,” Workman told The West Virginia Record in May.

Looking at the costs per square foot, the PEGB was paying $15.81 per foot at the Workman house and is paying $13.50 per foot at the new location. But unlike the old offices, the new location costs includes utilities and janitorial services. Also, the new facility has plenty of free parking, is handicap accessible and has two hearing rooms instead of one.

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