The Mountain State’s TRUSTED news source.

Click here to stay informed and subscribe to The Charleston Gazette-Mail.

Click #isupportlocal for more information on supporting our local journalists.

Learn more about HD Media

A legislative audit released Tuesday found that the West Virginia Supreme Court is doing a better job of keeping track of its asset inventory but still has gaps.

Following a 2018 audit that described the high court as “critically deficient” in inventorying its assets, it began compiling an inventory list — with the court being responsible not only for inventory at the Capitol but for all circuit, magistrate and family courts across the state.

The latest audit found the court accurately recorded as inventory 403, or 89%, of 454 randomly selected items purchased from 2015 to 2019. An audit a year earlier found 155, or 34%, of the same 454 items had been inventoried

“The progress made by the court towards ensuring complete and up-to-date fixed asset records for a large volume of diverse items located throughout the state deserves recognition,” the audit states. “However, the legislative auditor has concerns about the completeness and accuracy of the court’s fixed asset record due to the substantial amount of time involved in achieving the aforementioned progress.”

Legislative auditors in 2018 found that the court had no policy for inventory management, and the court’s asset inventory list at the time included just 26 items, including five vehicles, with a total purchase value of less than $370,000. That audit concluded that $2.7 million in items purchased by the court from 2015 to 2018 was not inventoried.

That 2018 audit came after then-Chief Justice Allen Loughry made headlines for having moved a valuable antique “Cass Gilbert desk” and a leather couch from Supreme Court offices to his home in Charleston without authorization.

Loughry was convicted of fraud in federal court in October 2018. The charges included a count for lying to investigators about the desk.

Also Tuesday, a legislative audit called on state agencies, including the Supreme Court, Division of Personnel and State Auditor’s Office, to end a longstanding practice of asking for Social Security numbers on job applications.

“While the practice of collecting SSNs for applicants may have been in place for decades within state government, the current environment we operate in presents far more opportunities for such information to be exploited by those who wish to obtain and use the identities of others for fraudulent or criminal activities,” the audit states, citing a recent data breach of the Job Seekers’ portal on the WorkForce West Virginia website.

“Social Security numbers are arguably the most sensitive piece of private information about an individual,” the audit notes. “They are used to secure loans, file taxes, apply for government assistance, housing, health care, and a myriad of other important uses. Along with your name, address, date of birth, and some other common personal information, your Social Security number could be used by a fraudster to do serious financial damage or commit identity theft.”

The audit notes that, during the course of conducting the audit, the Division of Personnel, Supreme Court and Auditor’s Office all indicated they were changing their personnel policies to require job applicants to submit only the last four numbers of their Social Security number.

Auditors see that as an improvement in reducing potential identity theft, but note that it poses a risk since many institutions use the last four digits of Social Security numbers to access customer accounts.

The audit recommends the Legislature pass a law to prohibit state agencies from requesting full Social Security numbers as part of the job application process, with exceptions for entities legitimately needing the full number as part of the initial application process.

“We’re already taking steps to do what the legislative auditor has suggested,” Administration Secretary Allan McVey told members of the legislative Post Audits Committee.

Phil Kabler covers politics. He can be reached at 304-348-1220 or Follow @PhilKabler on Twitter.

Recommended for you