Employee lists concerns about justices
CHARLESTON — The former technology director for the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals said one justice threatened his job, another forced him to hire an unnecessary employee and a third made him fearful that he would get in trouble if he didn’t honor the justice’s request that the director said was outside of his moral guidelines.
During the second day of an investigation into whether to impeach any of the state’s sitting Supreme Court justices, members of the House of Delegates Judiciary Committee heard testimony from Scott Harvey, who was director of technology for the court between 2011 and 2017.
Friday’s hearing also consisted of testimony from retired assistant administrator Fletcher Adkins and unedited footage of an interview Justice Allen Loughry did last year with WCHS-TV.
The committee began its work Friday morning after receiving a letter from the court’s acting administrator, who asked the committee to find common ground to keep from interrupting court employees’ work with requests for information and interviews she said were redundant to other investigations into the court.
The committee’s 25 members are responsible for collecting and reviewing evidence of possible impeachable offenses committed by justices on the court.
Harvey testified for about 3 V2 hours about his job duties and computers and related equipment in each justice’s home.
But it wasn’t his technology work that drew lawmakers’ concern.
During the course of questioning from Del. Rodney Miller, D-Boone, Harvey said “a justice” twice threatened to fire him if he failed to get West Virginia Treasurer John Perdue to sign a document for the court sometime in either 2015 or 2016.
“It was basically told to me that, ‘If you don’t get Treasurer Perdue to sign off on this document, then I am going to fire you,’” Harvey said.
Harvey, hands planted in his lap for most of his testimony, hesitated to say that it was Justice Menis Ketchum who made the threats when Del. Ben Queen, R-Harrison, first asked him to name the justice.
Harvey only answered Queen after consulting with his attorney, Lonnie Simmons, for about a minute.
“In fear of my job from Justice Ketchum,” Harvey said.
Harvey said Ketchum’s name a second time when House Judiciary Chairman John Shott, R-Mercer, asked him again who made the threats.
Ketchum, who resigned his post in the Mountain State’s highest court Wednesday, isn’t the subject of an individual investigation by the committee. His resignation prevents him from being impeached, and evidence indicating impeachable offenses by Ketchum as an individual will be limited during the investigation, Shott said Thursday.
Del. Andrew Robinson, D-Kanawha, asked Harvey about the culture of working in the court.
“Personally, I felt like I was in limbo,” Harvey said. “You didn’t know day-to-day if you were going to be employed.”
Harvey also told committee members he hired a man named John Pritt as a technology consultant for the court at the insistence of then-Supreme Court Administrator Steve Canterbury even though there already were staff in the court doing the work Pritt was hired to do.
Harvey said he was made to understand Pritt was hired at the behest of current Chief Justice Margaret Workman. Harvey said he also came to understand Pritt previously worked for one of Workman’s political campaigns for the court.
Harvey also talked about a request from Justice Allen Loughry to install two state-owned computers in his home in 2013.
Harvey said it was his understanding that each justice had at least once computer that was connected to the Supreme Court’s servers and network, but he said Loughry requested a second computer for his home and specifically asked that it have no connection to court servers.
The second computer was installed, at Loughry’s request, in what Harvey described as a kitchen and common family area.
While Harvey said he didn’t believe he was doing anything illegal, he said Loughry’s request felt outside of his moral guidelines.
Harvey also said he did not service the second computer in Loughry’s home, but he was aware at one point there was a report of a virus or malware on it. He said that he heard through the “IT chain” that the computer mostly had games and what were believed to be family photos on it.
Harvey also testified that a court administrator, whose name he didn’t provide, asked him to use video equipment purchased using federal grant money to replace broken video equipment that was in use outside of the scope of what the grant money was intended for.
Harvey clarified that it was not Canterbury who asked him to install the equipment when questioned by Del. Kelli Sobonya, R-Cabell.
Shott said Harvey’s testimony “opened some doors,” and that he gave the committee a lot of information on which it would follow up.
While all of the remaining justices — Margaret Workman, Robin Davis, Beth Walker and Allen Loughry — are subject to impeachment in the investigation, it’s alleged misconduct by the now-suspended Loughry that forced lawmakers to pursue action.
On June 6, the West Virginia Judicial Investigation Commission filed a 32-count statement of charges alleging that Loughry violated the state Judicial Code of Conduct by misusing government resources, including money, vehicles and furniture, and lying about it to lawmakers, the news media and the public.
On June 8, members of a specially appointed Supreme Court suspended Loughry without pay from the bench. They did not issue a ruling on Loughry’s law license, which remains active.
On June 19, a federal grand jury handed up a 22-count indictment of federal charges alleging fraud, witness tampering and lying to investigators.
The House of Delegates passed a resolution seven days later, on June 26, giving the House Judiciary Committee the authority to investigate the justices for possible impeachment.
The second day of the investigation started off with a letter from Supreme Court Administrator Barbara Allen to Chairman Shott.
In the letter, Allen stated the court’s concerns regarding the “scope of these impeachment proceedings and the procedures governing them.”
“The purpose of this letter is to see if we can find common ground that will enable us to assist the Legislature in fulfilling its proper duties while also protecting the judicial branch of government from any improper incursion, inference or interruption in its duties,” Allen said in the letter dated for Friday.
Shott said the committee members were upholding their oaths of office and constitutional duty to investigate the justices to determine whether they had upheld their oaths.
“The justices have taken an oath to uphold the constitution,” Shott said. “The adoption of the resolution by the House has triggered our constitutional duty to follow up on the impeachment process, so that’s what we’re doing.”
Allen said the court had fully cooperated in the state and federal investigations that so far have led to the indictment against Loughry and the Judicial Investigation Commission’s statement of charges against him, leading to his suspension from the bench.
Allen said the committee’s rules of procedure effectively made the committee members the prosecutors, judges and jury members in any case they bring against any justices by way of impeachment.
Allen questioned the need to have any more court employees answer questions by the committee, since many of those employees already answered questions in other investigations even though they aren’t alleged to have committed any wrongdoing.
“Several have expressed nervousness and reluctance at the prospect of undergoing additional questioning by your members about anything and everything, all while being livestreamed to the world,” Allen said.
The committee members spent Friday afternoon hearing testimony from Fletcher Adkins, who retired as the assistant administrator for the court in 2015 after working for the court for 35 years.
Adkins talked about his duties, which included keeping inventory of state property for the court and making sure court systems, like video conference systems in circuit courts and the home confinement tracking system, were in working order.
Committee members asked Adkins questions about June 2013, when it’s believed Loughry had a Cass Gilbert desk and a couch belonging to the late Justice Joe Albright moved from his office to his home.
Shott said during the hearing Friday that it was clear Loughry had the furniture in his home, but how long it was there was not clear.
Adkins said he received a request from Loughry on June 1, 2013, to have furniture moved from Loughry’s office to the court’s warehouse in preparation for renovations to Loughry’s office.
Originally, Adkins said Loughry requested the move take place on June 21, but he later altered his request to change the date to June 20, West Virginia Day.
Young’s Moving, a company contracted by the state for such services, was available to make the move that day, but Adkins said special accommodations had to be made to allow movers to access the Capitol during a state holiday.
Adkins said the records showed Loughry met the movers at Loughry’s office on June 20, 2013, before they went to Loughry’s home in Charleston, where they dropped off at least one item.
Loughry and the movers returned to the Capitol before meeting Adkins at the warehouse.
Adkins said he had no recollection of why the movers went to Loughry’s home or what they dropped off there. He also said he didn’t recall one way or another if he saw the Cass Gilbert desk at the warehouse, and he didn’t infer anything was amiss at the time of the move.
Testimony from the former court employees Friday shed more light on audit reports that were presented during the first day of the investigation Thursday.
At the end of Friday’s hearing at about 4 p.m., Robinson asked if the committee members could get a tour of the Supreme Court. Committee staff went to the court, where they said there was no one at the court who could authorize the tour and that the committee would have to submit a formal request for a tour.
Friday’s proceedings wrapped up the first round of hearings on the committee’s schedule. The committee originally was set to meet Saturday, July 14, but Shott said the scope of the committee’s work wouldn’t require members to come in Saturday.
The committee is scheduled to reconvene for three days of hearings beginning at 9 a.m. July 19. Beyond that, Shott previously said the committee’s schedule would depend on how fast its members processed evidence and witness testimony.