Wilfong apologizes to NCCC board

ELKINS – Randolph County Circuit Court Judge Jaymie Godwin Wilfong attended her first North Central Community Corrections Board of Directors meeting in more than seven months Thursday, offering an apology to members for her admission of an extramarital affair with the program’s former director.

“I know you are aware of my current situation and I wanted to take this opportunity to personally apologize to each of you for any embarrassment this may have caused,” Judge Wilfong wrote in a statement given to The Inter-Mountain.

Wilfong had not attended a meeting since she self-reported her intimate relationship with former NCCC Executive Director Travis Carter to the state Judicial Investigation Commission in October.

“I was intentionally absent from the past several (Community Corrections) meetings, because I did not want to cause additional difficulty or discomfort for any of you during that time,” Judge Wilfong wrote.

“However, I have continued to maintain communication with (current NCCC director) Erin Golden about the program, and I have expressed my ongoing full support of her and the program,” Judge Wilfong continued. “I made it clear to Erin that she could call upon me for any assistance or support at any time.

“I also deferred to Erin and asked her to guide me as to when she felt it would be appropriate for me to return to the meetings. Again, I am sorry I let down my colleagues, my family and the people I serve. I will work hard every day to re-earn that trust.”

Judge Wilfong’s self-report, along with four other complaints filed with the JIC, sparked an investigation into alleged ethics violations stemming from the affair and potential testimony offered by Carter and his staff in the judge’s courtroom.

The JIC’s formal statement of charges was issued on April 17, followed by the release of Judge Wilfong’s 27-page official response concerning the two-year relationship.

Rachael Fletcher Cipoletti, chief lawyer with the Disciplinary Counsel, told The Inter-Mountain a hearing date will be set within 120 days of the filing of the Statement of Charges.

In addition, the high court granted a petition last week by Randolph County Prosecuting Attorney Michael Parker to disqualify Judge Wilfong from hearing cases involving his office. The filing also stated that Senior Status Judges Thomas W. Steptoe Jr. and Thomas H. Keadle are being recalled to active service to handle the caseload.

Initially, Carter was suspended by the Randolph County Commission from his post – 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 Going of Pittsburgh – to investigate the situation.

Carter officially resigned his position on Dec. 5 at a Randolph County Commission meeting after the completion of the investigation.

Golden was selected as Carter’s replacement on Oct. 23.

Also at the Thursday’s meeting:

Golden announced the hiring of John Conifer as the Day Report Center Officer for the NCCC, effective May 12.

Conifer was chosen by a panel of four individuals, including Magistrate George M. Riggleman, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Richard Shryock, Probation Officer Keith Hopwood and Golden.

Golden said out of 16 applicants, nine were interviewed. Conniff’s hiring was approved by the Randolph County Commission at its May 1 meeting.

“We’re happy to have him on board and excited about what he has to offer,” Golden said.

The Board of Directors approved the purchase of Scram Bracelets, continuous alcohol-monitoring devices that are strapped to a subject’s ankle and are used for high-risk DUI alcohol offenders.

Golden asked the Board to approve the purchase of five more Scram Bracelets, which will cost $6,000.