Chief Justice Tim Armstead
CHARLESTON – Legislative auditors are praising the state Supreme Court for establishing and updating policies and procedures regarding the judicial system’s use of state assets.
“The Legislative Auditor commends the Court for its quick actions to establish thorough and well-researched controls,” said the conclusion of the report presented to the Legislative Interim Post Audits Subcommittee during a Jan. 7 meeting.
“The court’s internal controls system, as designed, addresses many of the risks areas identified in prior audits, and many of the court’s policies contain specific controls to detect fraud and prevent it from occurring,” the report said.
The report notes that the court has established new policies covering acceptable use of information systems and resources, asset management, body armor, removable media, user passwords, and probation drug testing. The court also has updated policies that cover travel, general accounting, purchasing cards, and procurement.
The court also issued a completely new Employee Handbook that replaced an outdated Personnel Manual.
The auditor noted that the new and revised internal controls are researched and based on those used by other West Virginia agencies and, in the case of the Employee Handbook, other states’ judicial systems.
The audit report made one recommendation: Language in some policies that indicate they apply to all judicial officers should specifically say the policies apply to Supreme Court Justices as well as circuit judges, family court judges and magistrates.
Chief Justice Tim Armstead told the Post Audits Committee that change already has been made.
“It certainly has been our intent, and remains our intent, that the policies referred to in the audit report apply to the Justices of the Supreme Court,” Armstead said in a written response.
Supreme Court representatives attending the Jan. 7 meeting were Armstead, 2019 Chief Justice Beth Walker, Supreme Court Administrative Director Joe Armstrong and Chief Financial Officer Sue Racer Troy.
“We appreciate today’s recognition of the hard work on the Court’s accountability and transparency initiative over the past year,” Walker said. “This project was the highest administrative priority during my year as Chief Justice, and I am confident that the work will continue under Chief Justice Armstead’s leadership.
“I am grateful for the diligent work of our Administrative Office and the support we received from the State Auditor and Legislative Auditor on our efforts to restore public confidence in the judiciary.”
Armstead said that’s his goal.
“Going forward, the Court will continue to keep these policies up to date,” Armstead said. “These guidelines and policies will help ensure our judges and employees follow high ethical standards and practices. We have sent copies to all court employees, posted them on our website, and future training conferences will include presentations on the policies and procedures.
“The approximately 1,400 people who work in the West Virginia judicial system are motivated and extremely skilled. These policies and procedures are intended to help them do their jobs in an atmosphere that is as professional as they are.”