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Impeachment articles approved for indicted high court justices

By JOHN RABY, Associated Press

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A legislative committee on Tuesday approved articles of impeachment against indicted suspended West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Allen Loughry and the three other justices, mostly relating to spending and lavish office renovations.

The House Judiciary Committee cited all four justices in forwarding 14 of 16 articles to the full House of Delegates, which meets next Monday. Two articles were rejected.

Committee chairman John Shott said in anticipation at the start of the hearing that it was a “sad day” and not a cause for celebration.

Seven articles singled out Loughry. He also was cited along with justices Margaret Workman, Robin Davis and Beth Walker for failing to control expenses, including more than $1 million in renovations to their individual offices, and not maintaining policies over matters such as state vehicles, working lunches and the use of office computers at home.

Loughry was indicted in federal court in June on charges of mail fraud, wire fraud, lying to federal law enforcement, witness tampering and obstruction of justice. Gov. Jim Justice and legislative leaders have asked him to resign. Loughry has not responded and did not testify at the committee hearings.

One approved article Tuesday accuses Loughry of lying to the House Finance Committee in January about his involvement in his Supreme Court office renovations.

Loughry also was cited in separate articles for using state money to frame personal items at his office; the use at his home of state-owned computers and an expensive, antique desk; and using state-owned vehicles for personal use, including over holidays.

Loughry, Davis and Workman also were cited for authorizing senior status judges to be overpaid in violation of state law.

The 25-member committee rejected articles of impeachment that would have cited Walker for paying for an outside counsel to write an opinion for her in 2017, and Workman for hiring a contracted IT employee who previously worked on her campaign.

The articles were voted on by either voice or roll call votes. Republican Kayla Kessinger, R-Fayette, was absent for the roll call votes and Frank Deem, R-Wood, was absent for some of them.

The House can accept or reject the articles. Any trial would be held before the state Senate.

If a justice is removed from office after Aug. 14, Republican Gov. Jim Justice would appoint a replacement to serve until a special election in 2020.

Justice Menis Ketchum retired last month and was not involved in the hearings. Last week prosecutors said Ketchum has agreed to plead guilty in federal court to one count of wire fraud stemming from the personal use of state-owned vehicles and fuel cards. A special election will be held in November to fill the remainder of Ketchum’s term.

The last time the Legislature was involved in similar proceedings was 1989, when state Treasurer A. James Manchin was impeached by the House of Delegates after the state lost $279 million invested in the bond market. Manchin, the uncle of current U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, resigned before the state Senate took up the impeachment measure. He was never charged and the state recovered $55 million from lawsuits against nine New York brokerage firms involved in the losses.

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