Exposing Corrupt Officials in W.Va.

It has been suggested West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Allen Loughry should resign. That would “spare the court and state any further embarrassment,” House of Delegates Speaker Tim Armstead said last week.

Indeed it would. It also might spare the court and the state safeguards against corruption in the future.

Loughry has been accused of 32 separate violations of the Judicial Code of Conduct. Reportedly, a federal investigation also is centered on him. That could result in criminal charges.

A variety of wrongdoing is alleged. It includes extravagant spending of taxpayers’ money, having an expensive couch taken from the Capitol to his home, improper use of a state vehicle and lying to cover up his misdeeds.

The high court’s other four members have stepped aside from proceedings involving Loughry. A special panel of lower-court judges has been named to look into the matter.

Last week, Loughry was suspended without pay from his job as a justice.

Armstead, R-Kanawha, commented that accusations against Loughry have “undermined the public’s confidence in our judicial system. It’s time to begin repairing that damage.”

Indeed it is. A first step, if Loughry is guilty of even some of the 32 accusations, would be for him to resign.

Too often, public employees and officials guilty of wrongdoing are allowed to resign without additional consequences. The public never learns details of what they did or how they got away with it.

Merely getting rid of Loughry would not restore the public’s trust.

Since questions about Loughry — and other justices — were raised last year, changes have been made. For one thing, Loughry was removed from his post as chief justice earlier this year. And Margaret Workman, now serving in the position, has issued assurances reforms have been put in place to avoid misspending in the future.

Not enough. First, West Virginians need to know precisely what Loughry did and how it was that no one questioned his actions until after some of them were exposed by the press.

Second, more needs to be known about other justices. For example, how was it that Justice Menis Ketchum used a state car to commute to work but did not list it as a fringe benefit on his income tax return, as required by law?

Too much has happened and too many Mountain State residents have been reminded that corruption still pervades public life. It all needs to be exposed.