‘Personalized’: Justices’ lavish spending a betrayal of public trust

Delegate Shawn Fluharty, D-Ohio, made an important point after members of the House Judiciary Committee toured the offices of the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals Monday.

In those offices, committee members saw the results of the court having spent $1.5 million on renovations and alleged improvements to justices’ offices –incredibly lavish renovations and improvements.

“It’s probably the nicest part of the Capitol, that’s for sure, but what stood out to me was that every office was personalized,” Fluharty said. “It certainly exceeds any expectations the public would have on office renovations.”

Referring to a wooden inlaid floor in Justice Allen Loughry’s office, which featured the state of West Virginia with Loughry’s home county in blue granite, Delegate Barbara Fleischauer, D-Monongalia, said “It’s beautiful.”

But, “The inlay obviously stands out as something meticulous and personalized to the point of extravagant cost.

“I think it goes to the bigger picture here. We’re electing these people to 12-year terms and they believe it’s a lifetime. They decided to make these offices truly their own instead of really being a public office. Every single one had a distinct feel and was very personalized.”

Every single one. Perhaps that is why, on Tuesday, the House Judiciary Committee approved articles of impeachment against every sitting member of the court. Among the accusations against all of them is having unneeded and costly renovations to their offices.

(By the way, while the spending on office alterations may be grabbing all the attention, of far greater concern are the articles accusing some justices of having violated state code by signing off on overpaying senior status judges.)

Despite all the talk of politics-as-usual being a thing of the past in Charleston, these folks appear to have believed, once they convinced voters to send them to Charleston, they were set for the remainder of their careers, and free to spend taxpayer money as they pleased. If it is true that Loughry was leading the charge, it is easy to see why those who followed suit would not have thought any differently.

And, certainly, there was a time in West Virginia politics when they would have been correct in their assumptions.

No longer. Though there are undoubtedly still plenty of folks in Charleston determined to serve their own interests, rather than the public, that mindset is retreating to the shadows.

Members of the House Judiciary Committee sent a powerful message this week: Such behavior is unacceptable. It is no longer the way things are done.