A disservice to the people of West Virginia

Not long after Allen Loughry’s book came out, he was in my office discussing it. The title is “Don’t Buy Another Vote, I Won’t Pay for a Landslide: The Sordid and Continuing History of Political Corruption in West Virginia.”

It’s fascinating reading, all the more so because of recent events.

I remember remarking to Loughry that it’s easy to assume corruption among public officials is history in our state, not current events. His book reminded me that is not the case, I said.

Little did I know.

Now, Loughry is accused of being corrupt himself. What happened?

The state Judicial Investigation Commission alleges Loughry, as a justice of the West Virginia Supreme Court, has been guilty of no fewer than 32 violations of the Code of Judicial Conduct.

It’s complicated. In essence, however, it amounts to this: Loughry is alleged to have been more linked than he admitted to extravagant spending by the court — then of lying repeatedly in an attempt to cover up his involvement.

No criminal charges have been filed. A federal investigation is in progress, however.

Outrageous spending by the court during a $3.7 million renovation project included purchase of a $32,000 couch for Loughry’s office. It extended to spending $7,500 for an inlaid floor that was a map of the state, with counties in wood — except for one. Loughry’s home county, Tucker, is in granite.

My first house (actually, a mobile home) didn’t cost as much as Loughry’s floor.

So far, though, not so bad. Worse extravagances and waste of taxpayers’ money have occurred. Assuming Loughry played a hand in approving the purchases, he could have admitted he’d made a terrible mistake and, no doubt, Mountain State residents would have forgiven him.

Remember the old injunction about the coverup being worse than the crime?

That’s where it gets sticky for Loughry. After questions about the purchases were raised, he was asked about them by the press and legislators, among others.

He lied repeatedly, according to the Judicial Investigation Commission.

At one point, he threw former court administrator Steve Canterbury — fired after Loughry took office — under the bus. Canterbury spent wildly without telling justices, it was claimed.

There is evidence Loughry knew more about the questionable spending than he admitted.

So what happened — assuming, again, the commission is correct?

Did Loughry make a mistake, letting his position on the court go to his head, in spending too much money — then, perhaps, decide he had to lie to avoid even a hint of corruption by a justice who was elected in part because his book convinced some voters he was a breath of honest, fresh air?

Did he take office with the best of intentions, then fall into the same pit that swallowed up some of the people in his book?

If so, Loughry did a terrible disservice to the people of West Virginia. He reinforced what so many believed — that in government, we can’t trust anyone.

— Mike Myer can be reached at: mmyer@theintelligencer.net.

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