Officials react to Wilfong admissions
ELKINS – Randolph County officials reacted Tuesday to admissions Circuit Court Judge Jaymie Godwin Wilfong made in response to a state ethics complaint involving her admitted affair with a Randolph County employee.
Judge Wilfong’s attorneys, David A. Sims and Harry G. Deitzler, released the Judicial Investigation Commission’s formal statement of charges and her responses to The Inter-Mountain on Monday.
In the judge’s 27-page reply, she admitted to having oral sex with then-North Central Community Corrections Executive Director Travis Carter “in my office on three or less times.” Judge Wilfong also admitted to sending sexually explicit emails, instant messages, text messages and nude photos to Carter on his work computer and work cell phone. In all, the JIC charges Wilfong with violating four canons of the Code of Judicial Conduct. Thirty-four findings are listed within the four primary charges in connection to the affair, which by Wilfong’s admission began in October 2011 and concluded in October 2013 near the time the judge self-reported to the JIC.
Judge Wilfong referenced several county employees and elected officials, including Prosecuting Attorney Michael Parker and Randolph County Commissioner Mike Taylor, in her response to the JIC.
“I am rather certain that Mr. Parker knew about the relationship before he took office as the Prosecuting Attorney in January of 2012,” Wilfong wrote. “Despite the Prosecuting Attorney’s knowledge of the affair, he never raised any objection about it prior to the filing of the judicial ethics complaint against me and never suggested formally, or informally, that he perceived anything wrong with my relationship with William Travis Carter. He never objected to anything in Court that occurred and it was not until the Complaint was filed did I learn of Mr. Parker’s concern.”
The JIC documents reveal that five complaints were issued, including Parker’s; the judge’s own self-report, one by Wilfong’s law clerk, Mary Catherine Wendekier; one by attorney Christopher Cooper; and one by Community Corrections board members R. Mike Mullens, Heather Weese, Raymond LaMora and David Wilmoth.
Wilfong’s self-report was the first received by the JIC, followed closely by Parker’s and the others.
When contacted by The Inter-Mountain Tuesday, Parker issued his own formal statement on the matter.
“As the West Virginia Judicial Investigation Commission proceedings are still pending, I have no comment as to the information contained in the Formal Statement of Charges other than to say that I have fully complied with my obligations under both the laws of the State of West Virginia and the Rules of Professional Conduct as it relates to the complaint I filed against Judge Wilfong,” Parker wrote. “I know that the Judicial Investigation Commission will consider all of the evidence and make an appropriate decision regarding the complaints.”
The JIC report mentions Taylor in Filing 34, “During the course of the relationship with Carter, Judge Wilfong assured Carter that she would advise Randolph County Commissioner Michael Taylor that she would stop utilizing North Central Community Corrections if Carter was no longer its Executive Director.”
The Randolph County Commission initially suspended Carter – without pay – at an emergency meeting on Oct. 16. The Commission later amended the suspension to include pay and addressed the topic during its Oct. 17 regularly scheduled session, when it also unanimously voted to hire an outside law firm – Marshall, Dennehey, Warner, Coleman and Goggin of Pittsburgh – to investigate the situation.
Carter officially resigned his position on Dec. 5
after the completion of the investigation.
In response to Filing 34, Wilfong wrote, “I admit that I once told William Travis Carter that I would not use North Central Community Corrections without his leadership and that I would share that with Randolph County Commissioner Mike Taylor. I did support Mr. Carter’s work with Mike Taylor, and others, because he was doing a good job. I did that before, during and after our relationship ended. I admit the remainder of the allegations. I would do the same with Erin Golden, the current Director. If she were to leave, I would tell Mike Taylor that I would question using the program without her. She does a good job of running its operation. Without good people, a community corrections program may not work or function properly and do what is required to make it a success.”
Taylor issued his own written statement late Monday, writing, “As a commissioner, I support the concept and principles of the Community Corrections program. It has been and continues to be a proven concept to save the taxpayers of Randolph County thousands of dollars relative to its regional jail bill.”
Taylor was president of the Commission from 2008 to 2012.
A JIC representative said last week the matter has been taken over by the West Virginia Office of Disciplinary Counsel, Lawyer Disciplinary Board, because Wilfong is a sitting member of the Judicial Hearing Board. That association, the JIC official said, is a conflict of interest. Wilfong has since resigned her position on that board.
Rachael Fletcher Cipoletti, chief lawyer with the Disciplinary Counsel, said a hearing date will be set within 120 days of the filing of the Statement of Charges, which was April 17.