Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

WV Prison Chief Target of Investigation, Audit Shows

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

WV Prison Chief Target of Investigation, Audit Shows

Article excerpt

State authorities are investigating West Virginia Corrections Commissioner Jim Rubenstein - and other high-ranking administrators at the agency's central office in Charleston - after auditors cited Rubenstein for taking state money for unauthorized travel expenses. The Legislature's Commission on Special Investigations and Legislative Auditor's Office are both making "inquiries into Rubenstein's expenses, according to a letter released Thursday by state auditors.

The letter - written by Rubenstein's boss, Joe Thornton, who heads the state Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety - refers to the ongoing investigations, but provides few details. The letter was included in the audit.

As corrections commissioner, Rubenstein oversees the day-to-day operation of all state prisons in West Virginia.

At a legislative meeting Thursday, auditors flagged Rubenstein for being improperly reimbursed for a March 2015 hotel stay in Charleston.

Rubenstein, who has an apartment in Charleston and works out the Division of Corrections' headquarters in the city, submitted a $138 hotel bill for reimbursement, but withdrew the request after Thornton's executive secretary questioned the expense.

Days later, Rubenstein had his deputy commissioner approve the reimbursement, and the state paid him for the hotel stay.

Thornton didn't find out about it until a year later.

"I was certainly caught off guard when you advised the request for reimbursement was, without my approval, in turn submitted directly to the state Auditor's Office for reimbursement, without my signatory approval," Thornton wrote last week to Denny Rhodes, who heads the state Legislative Post Audit Division.

Thornton added that state investigators were conducting "additional inquiries to determine whether or not this was a pattern, or if any additional matters would be revealed that require action."

Rubenstein did not return phone messages seeking comment Thursday.

In an email sent to Thornton's secretary last year, Rubenstein said he spent the night at a Charleston hotel because he planned to attend "Corrections Day" at the state Capitol, "plus water froze up in my apartment and I scurried. …

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