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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

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Perverts in Public Office

Lawsuit details sexual assault claims against former Logan Co. judge

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LOGAN – The secretary for a former Logan County family judge has accused him of sexually assaulting her.

Jason Harwood resigned from his judgeship in July, and he agreed to never seek judicial office again in West Virginia. In an admonishment from the state Judicial Investigation Commission, Hardwood admitted to having a sexual relationship with his former secretary.

Two months later, that secretary now has filed a civil lawsuit in Logan Circuit Court against Harwood.

The woman, who only is identified as Jane Doe in the complaint, says Harwood sexually assaulted her numerous times in his Logan County Courthouse chambers, her office, the courtroom and a storage room. In the judicial complaint against Harwood, the woman is identified as TFM.

Through his attorney, Harwood denied the allegations made in the civil complaint.

“Judge Harwood denies that he committed sexual harassment, assault, threats, intimidation, or any other unlawful conduct,” said Brian Moore, an attorney with Dinsmore & Shohl’s Charleston office. “We plan to aggressively defend this case.”

In her complaint, the woman says she began working for Harwood in January 2009 shortly after he was elected as Logan County Family Court Judge. She says she and Harwood went to high school together and that she needed the health insurance benefits from the job because she suffers from diabetes and her daughter has asthma.

“Plaintiff was raising her daughter on her own, without any financial assistance from her ex-husband, whose threats and violent actions against plaintiff prompted a court to issue a permanent domestic violence protection order for plaintiff,” the complaint states.

About two months into the job, the woman says Harwood began making “crude unwelcome comments” about her breasts and other parts of her body. Despite her attempts to persuade him to stop, the woman says Harwood began making such comments with more regularity.

In April 2009, when his wife still was in the hospital after giving birth to their son, the woman says Harwood asked her to accompany him to a wedding he was presiding over at a private residence.

“After consuming a couple of wine coolers at the wedding, plaintiff felt strange.” The complaint states. “She was not drunk, but felt very heavy and could feel herself coming in and out of consciousness.”

The woman says she remembers getting out of Harwood’s car at his home, then waking up naked in his bed.

“When she woke up, she saw defendant standing beside the bed wearing only his underwear,” the complaint states. “Although plaintiff has no recollection of any sexual act being committed by defendant on this occasion, before she put her clothes on, she washed dried male ejaculate from her body.”

When Harwood drove the woman to her car, she claims he tried to put his hand on her leg. She says she never told anyone about this incident when it occurred.

The following day, she says Harwood called her and made a comment about she “had opened ‘Pandora’s box’ and that once Pandora’s box was open, it can’t be closed.” She replied that it wouldn’t happen again, but a few weeks later Harwood told her, “you know you opened Pandora’s box, I am your boss, and you are going to take care of your judge.”

The woman says Harwood made more crude references to her body and repeatedly said, “You’ll keep your judge happy to keep your job.”

After that is when the woman says Harwood sexually assaulted her three or four times in the courthouse.

“The first time, defendant came into plaintiff’s office, locked the door, pushed plaintiff into a corner against the wall,” the complaint states. “Plaintiff tried to fight him off, but he sexually forced himself on her.

“While he was sexually assaulting her, plaintiff kept telling him to stop and tried to get away from him, but he was too strong.”

Harwood allegedly told the woman she would have to keep doing this until he said it’s done and that she should do what he wants. When he was finished, the woman again told him it wouldn’t happen again.

“Defendant told plaintiff he could fire her at any time,” the complaint states. “Plaintiff told him you should do whatever you need to do. Defendant then said, ‘No, you will do what I need you to do.’”

The next day, she says Harwood sent her a birthday card referencing the incident. The card said, “Who knew work could be so much fun.”

The woman details other incidents in the civil complaint. 

One occurred when Harwood was on the bench in the courtroom. He asked the woman to lock the door and to look at a piece of paper, pulling her chair toward him. 

“Defendant then mentioned Pandora’s box, he pulled out his penis, grabbed plaintiff’s head, pushed her down into his crotch and forced her to perform oral sex,” the complaint states. “Plaintiff told defendant she hated his guts.”

Another time, the woman claims Harwood had his pants hemmed and asked her to look at them.

“He pulled off his pants and sexually assaulted her on a table in his office,” the complaint states. “Defendant also forced himself on plaintiff sexually at a restaurant/bar (three times), which was not open for business until the evening. Defendant was friends with the owner and had a key to the bar.”

The complaint details other instances when Harwood would make comments to the plaintiff about keeping him happy to keep her job. One incident is described as “the last time plaintiff wore a skirt.”

“He pulled his pants down. He pulled her dress up and her panties down,” the complaint states. “Plaintiff fought him but could not get him off of her. She said stop, I don’t want to do this. He said Pandora’s box is open you will have to keep doing this until I say it is done.”

She said the attention from Harwood didn’t just occur during work.

“On one occasion, when plaintiff was at Chief Logan State Park swimming pool with her daughter, defendant showed up wearing his business suit just to see plaintiff at the pool,” the complaint states. “On about three occasions, defendant showed up at the house of plaintiff’s grandmother, where plaintiff was living.

“On at least two occasions, defendant, who had been drinking, arrived unannounced at the house and asked plaintiff if she wanted to go for a drive with him, and plaintiff refused.”

That’s when Harwood threatened the plaintiff, according to the suit.

“Before you take me down, I will put you in my boat on Grayson Lake and we will see if they ever find your remains then,” Harwood said, according to the complaint.

The woman says she took the threat seriously. She says the threat of drowning “tapped into a very real fear” for her because her ex-husband had tried to drown her in a bathtub.

“You will be my girlfriend, I’m in love with you,” Harwood said, according to the complaint. The woman said she wasn’t his girlfriend. In fact, she says she was about to marry the person to whom she currently is married.

By August 2010, the woman says she wouldn’t let Harwood near her, and she threatened to expose him if he ever touched her again.

The woman also notes in her complaint that Harwood had “got into some trouble” at a law firm where he used to work for sexually harassing an employee. Harwood previously had served as a Logan County assistant prosecutor and a county public defender, and he worked for Shaffer & Shaffer, which has offices in Madison and Charleston.

The woman says another Logan County Courthouse employee told her Hawood had offered her money for various sexual acts. And, the complaint states that anticipated discovery will show Harwood used his power to try to obtain sexual favors from litigants who appeared before him in exchange for favorable rulings.

The woman began looking for another job in late 2009, and she also contacted the state Supreme Court to find out what would happen if a judge is sexually harassing an employee. She was told a formal complaint would need to be filed. And she asked if the employee likely would lose her job if she filed such a complaint. She was told that likely would happen.

She spoke with the same Supreme Court human resources staffer in the spring of 2010 again and was told the same thing. In April 2011, the woman found another job and left the courthouse job.

When she told Harwood she was leaving, the woman says he tried to talk her out of leaving, in part, “because defendant feared she was going to sue him.” That conversation, she claims, moved to the courtroom where Harwood “secretly recorded what they said.”

The woman said rumors began circulating at the courthouse about Harwood’s alleged sexual harassment of her. As a result, the woman says Harwood confronted her about her possibly filing sexual harassment claims against him. Again, he said told her she’d be buried at the bottom of Grayson Lake and that nobody would find her body. He made a similar threat about a week later, she claims.

“Defendant also told plaintiff he had a son to raise and a re-election coming up and any sexual harassment claim would cause him problems,” the complaint states.

The woman took a job in Charleston, even after Harwood offered her more money out of his pocket to stay. Later, she says she told a Logan County Courthouse worker that she planned to file a sexual harassment suit against Harwood.

“The employee told someone else, who in turn told defendant,” the suit states. “Once again, defendant told plaintiff if se gave him any problems, defendant would bury her at the bottom of Grayson Lake and further noted a dead person cannot talk.

“At this time, plaintiff assured defendant she would not file any complaint because she feared defendant would carry out his threats.”

She claims Harwood continued to contact her, including near her first marriage anniversary in the summer of 2012. He allegedly asked her if she was ready to “take care of your ole judge and make some money.”

The next May, she says Harwood wanted her to meet him at the Marriott in Charleston while he was in town for a conference. He was “furious” that she was carpooling and didn’t have a car to come meet him.

In July 2013, she says Harwood called her and called her “a good girl” for keeping up her promise of not filing a sexual harassment suit against him. He also asked if she wanted to make some money.

And in November 2013, she says both of them were attending different conferences at the same location when she found a note on her car left by Harwood. She ignored the note, but she says he called her and asked to meet. She did meet in a public place, where she says Harwood again praised her for not filing a suit and again asked if she wanted to “serve her ole judge again.”

“It was not until plaintiff began speaking with law enforcement officials in 2014 that she realized she should not let defendant get away with abuse the power of his office to sexually assault and harass her,” the complaint states. “A few months after sending the notice to sue letter in this case, defendant agreed to resign his position as Logan County Family Court Judge, effective July 10, 2015.”

On July 13, Harwood reached an agreement with the Judicial Disciplinary Counsel, and the Judicial Investigation Commission issued a public admonishment of Harwood.

“Judge Harwood developed an unfavorable reputation in his work environment and perhaps in the community concerning his attitude toward women as sex objects, which was contributed to by his use of language of a sexual nature and his crude utterances about a woman’s physical appearance,” said the JIC admonishment, which was signed by Chairman Ronald E. Wilson, a circuit judge in Ohio, Brooke and Hancock counties. “As such, it was a combination of all of this that caused the Commission to conclude that Jason D. Harwood’s attitude toward women was more like that of an adolescent’s notions of women as sex objects than that of a responsible circuit judge and that he should no longer serve in that honorable position.”

The JIC said Harwood violated multiple canons of the state’s Judicial Code of Conduct because of the relationship with his secretary. Also, it said Harwood gave legal advice to a friend who had a case pending in Preston County Family Court. Judges are not allowed to give legal advice, according to the Code of Conduct.

Harwood resigned July 10, and state Supreme Court Chief Justice Margaret Workman appointed Susan Perry to replace him until Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin appoints someone to fill the remainder of Harwood’s term.

The JIC said Harwood wanted a woman with the initials of TFM to be his secretary before he took office in January 2009. They began a sexual relationship soon after, and he promoted her to Family Court Case Coordinator in 2010. She worked there until March 2011.

“Judge Harwood’s decision to engage in a sexual relationship with his secretary was ill-conceived and unacceptable,” Wilson wrote in the admonishment, adding that affairs “can cause public humiliation for the parties involved. They are rarely kept secret and, as the investigation in this case discloses, can become grist for the gossip mill and destructive blather in the community.”

In the newly filed civil complaint, the woman accuses Harwood of sexual harassment, and she seeks compensation for physical pain and suffering, emotional pain and suffering, humiliation and embarrassment. She also seeks attorney fees, court costs and other relief. She also seeks punitive damages.

“Finally, plaintiff would ask the court to examine what equitable relief may be appropriate to provide more protection for employees of the West Virginia Supreme Court who find themselves in the same predicament as plaintiff,” the complaint states. “Possibilities would include additional training of all employees, emphasizing the confidentiality of any verbal or written complaints of sexual harassment, and any other procedure the court determines is appropriate.”

The plaintiff is being represented by Tim DiPiero and Lonnie Simmons of DiTrapano, Barrett, DiPiero, McGinley & Simmons PLLC in Charleston. The case originally was assigned to Circuit Judge Douglas Witten, but both he and Circuit Judge Eric O’Briant recused themselves. It now has been assigned to Senior Status Judge Thomas W. Steptoe Jr. Steptoe is from the eastern Panhandle, but has been serving in place of former Randolph Circuit Judge Jaymie Wilfong, who was suspended from the bench last year after she admitted to an affair with a county official.

Logan Circuit Court case number 15-C-247

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Wasting School Money?

I have a question and it goes like this:  We get $400,000 extra per year of Forest money--money that not every county gets--bonus money.  

The state pays to educate our students with annual funding based on the per pupil cost of that education.  That money is intended to pay operating costs such as personnel,  transportation, and maintenance. 

That amount of money is based on the number of students we have to educate.  All counties are supposed to get an amount necessary to educate each child in school.  

For several years, the Pocahontas County has been getting a special payment because of its sparse population density.  The county gets a guaranteed amount of money for 1400 students.  We get this despite the fact that the actual number of students is considerably less than 1400.  (perhaps 1170)

This, then, is in excess of the amount of money it actually takes an average school to educate its children.  55 districts across the state have to provide an education based on X amount of money.  There are a few exceptions such as Pocahontas which gets an excess amount from the Legislature.

We pay board members $160 per meeting--the maximum allowed by law.  The board has had nine meetings in a row.  

The board has just hired a contract lawyer to do the job of the prosecuting attorney who is the statutory attorney for the board.  The elected prosecutor cannot charge for his services.  Yet, the board hires another lawyer and gives him $36,000 per year to represent them.

By their own admission the schools are falling apart.  This has been based on "lack of funding."  But that can't be true!  There is no "lack of funding."  There may be a "lack of budgeting,"  but if that were true, it is a "lack" not because of $$$$ but merely of a matter of priority. 

There's an old saying:  You can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink.  Your board of education is knee deep in $$$$, they just don't know how to spend the $$$$ they have on the right things. (like maintenance)

Apparently,  our system doesn't value our buildings enough to put the necessary $$$$ into them to keep them up.  So if we don't take care of what we already have, can will w be do the same thing to the new buildings and let them fall down!  Even a car has to have an oil change once in a while.  

There's a statement I like:  You can't run a Cadillac  on a Model T budget!  But the difference is that Pocahontas has had a Cadillac budget for years but was too stingy to put its money into maintenance.

Just because we don't have an excess levy doesn't mean that we are bad people.  It means merely that we don't have the extra $$$$ to afford some things--like extra taxes.

The Legislature and the Federal government both recognize that Pocahontas County has expenses that deserve extra compensation and they provide it abundantly.   The matter then is not more $$$$ but a better use of the dollars we have.

Questions:  What are we doing with the money that we have in hand?  

How would we make it if we lost the Forest money and/or the bonus state money? 

We need to start living within our means!!!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Musical School Chairs

Meeting Summary

I went to this meeting tonight and here is a summary as I remember it.  I will be posting video shortly.

1.    The Interim superintendent apologized re: the short announcement.

2.  He explained that the board has until Oct 1 to submit its proposal.  It was fairly obvious that they had not really considered the proposal with any depth.  He explained that the former superintendent did not want to deal with the issue.  The Thursday night is very near.

3.  There was a lot of people at the Music Room.   Many staff and professionals from all over the county were there..  Some parents were there as well.  5:00 for the meeting didn't give a lot of opportunity for working parents to attend.

4.    Maintenance supervisor, Ron Hall of the board office gave a run-down on the conditions of the building.  He complained that he didn't have enough money to keep these buildings up.  It did appear to this reporter that money for maintenance has not been much of a priority in the past years.  In other words,  all the buildings have been neglected, some pretty severely.  The proposed reconfig would make it possible to build new facilities instead of fixing up the old as much.  The SBA doesn't like to maintain buildings;  they have two goals in mind,  "less buildings" and "new buildings."  Of course,  Pocahontas County has been upgrading its facilities for several years.  So they won't really satisfy the SBA unless they shuffle the children around some and build some new facilities.

5.  The estimated cost of the config is 28 million dollars with perhaps as much as 18 million coming from the SBA.  It was not adequately explained to me as to where that money would come from locally.  Someone mentioned the dirty word, "levy."  And it seemed that there was considerable sentiment among the group to call for a levy.  The main caution was that a levy should not involve athletics as the last one did and was trounced royally.

6.  But it was not adequately explained how the new facilities would be any better maintained than the old ones considering that the school system is "too poor" to afford maintenance on the current buildings.

7.  That brought up the question of Marlinton Elementary School which lies in the floodplain.  That of course, is a given.  Not only is MES in the floodplain but the county has just built a brand new facility, the Wellness Center, in the same floodplain.  The sub proposal consists of moving the board office which is high above the floodplain down into MES where all the student records would be subject to flooding.  (Many people can remember 85 when water was nearly to the ceiling of the MES building.

8.  Then another inconsistency arose in the matter:  what about the fact that the school system has recently relocated the 5th grade from MMS to MES.  In other words,  it was no problem expanding the school in the floodplain until now.  Now the main priority is to get the whole bunch out of the floodplain!  Nobody touched an explanation of this corundum.

9.  Then the big secret of the night came out.  We admire Mr. Beam for being the first to articulate this secret in a public meeting.  It weighs heavily into the equation.  The Pocahontas County school system has been constantly funded for several years at the rate of 1400 students when in reality they have had far less.  Question:  Where has all that money been going?-- Certainly, not into maintenance by board testimony.  

10.  The actual configuration is up in the air and the proposal deadline is on Thursday.  It appears that this was the reason for the rush meeting to get public input.  If they don't apply this year,  they will have to wait another year.

11.  The meeting ended on a positive note with no decision as to what to do.  Sometimes indecisiveness is a virtue.  If that is true,  we have a lot of it!!!  All in all there was a good spirit about the meeting perhaps because only a couple board members showed up to listen to the forum.  The others will have to listen to the Commentators video.

Truth in the Rumor

I have been getting anonymous notes from the readers of the Commentator--rumors that made it worthwhile to do a little legwork for the rest of our readers.  I am reconstructing what I said from memory so please forgive me if I get it a little wrong.  I am sure that someone will correct me and that is fine!!  Here We Go:

First:  The Rumor from Anonymous:

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Bizarre Rumor":
Monday, September 28th at 5:00 there will be a Public Forum at MES regarding what they are wanting to do with the schools. The rumor I heard is that they want to combine MMS and Greenbank at the high school property and combine MES and Hillsboro in one (maybe the MMS building?). It' no secret that they want MES moved and/or closed, that was in the newspaper! Show up on Monday to hear what they have to say!

Here's what we know from talking with the interim superintend:

There is a grain of truth.  According to him, the suggestion has been made as follows:

HES would become a K-6 school
GBMS would become a K-6 school.
MES would become a K-6 school but at the MMS facility.

MES would be the new board office.

7th and 8th graders from both schools would go to a new facility at the high school.  Some will remember that GBMS was once at the high school.

MES would move to the old MMS building (which actually isn't so old.)

The goal would be to get MES out of the flood plain,  strength the need for HES which has an extremely low student count.  The board office would no longer be on the second floor of the old Jr. High (out of the floodplain)  but would now be in the flood plain in the current MES building.

No plans for the multimillion dollar Wellness Center that just opened.

Arguments for moving MES consist of the fact that MES currently has little foot traffic impacting the town.  There would be a nice cafeteria in the Board Office.  The Board would continue to be a water and sewer user.   The Board Office would have a very nice public meeting room (the previous music room) HES would not have to be closed.  The Board Office is expensive to heat.  

Arguments against moving MES to MMS.  Traveling distance and mountain terrain.  7th and 8th graders from the lower end and the upper end of the county would have additional traveling time and miles.  Not moving might force the closure of HES.  

NOW THERE IS A PUBLIC MEETING but it is just not on the agenda.  I am including a picture of the agenda for the meeting tonight.  It will tell you that the board is regularly to meet at the Board Office at 7:00.  THE PUBLIC MEETING IS AT 5:00 Monday evening IN THE MES MUSIC ROOM.  No action is to be taken and because it is not on the agenda this reporter assumes that the entire board will not be present to hear public comment.  (All public meetings of school officials have to be announced when a quorum of members meet together.  

This means that by law one would not expect more than two board members at that public meeting.  (The question is not whether they take action, but whether they meet to discuss anything.)  If there are three members or more,  I want to know about it.

Friday, September 25, 2015

MHS Group Photo--Class of 1965-- 3 pics slow load--Patience Req. Download and Print

Bizarre Rumor

Anonymous Tip:  Hi, Mr Norman. I was told a bit of news 

today that concerned me. But, I'm not sure how to verify 

it. I was told that the BOE is scheming to combine 

Hillsboro and Marlinton Elementary. 

This being done under the guise of a mold issue at ME.

Would you be willing to look into the matter and if it is 

true get the word out.--Anonymous

Editor's Note: I get lots of tips on what is going on in 

Pocahontas County but there is a bizarre coincidence

here. Just this evening (a few hours) I was asked by a 

knowledgable person how I felt about ME being moved.

Political behavior in Pocahontas sometimes parallels 

reality pretty well.

Can anyone help us with some answers 


Just keep this quiet for a while and we'll 

have the investigative staff of the 

Commentator look  into it!!

We need the Pope up here in WV to straighten things out!!!

Logan County Family Court Judge Gave Legal Advice, Had Sexual Relationship With Secretary

Updated: Friday, July 17, 2015 | Leslie A. Rubin Logan County Family Court Judge Gave Legal Advice, Had Sexual Relationship With Secretary story image
LOGAN, W.Va. – A Logan County Family Court Judge who abruptly resigned last week was facing disciplinary action, according to a public admonishment made public on Friday.
The Honorable Ronald E. Wilson, chairperson for the Judicial Investigation Commission, signed the document on July 13th.
The commission found that formal disciplinary action was not essential since Jason Harwood had agreed to resign his position and never again seek judicial office in West Virginia.
Harwood submitted his resignation letter to Supreme Court Chief Justice Margaret Workman and Governor Earl Ray Tomblin, stating that his resignation would be effective at 5:01 p.m. on July 10th.
Harwood was sworn into office in late December 2008 and formally took the position in January 2009.
According to the admonishment, Harwood had an improper sexual relationship with his secretary, identified as TFM, after he hired her in 2009. TFM was promoted the position of Family Court Case Coordinator in 2011 after Harwood requested that she be promoted to the position. TFM served as the coordinator until the end of March 2011.
Harwood has acknowledged that it is not appropriate for a judicial officer to engage in such a relationship, according to the admonishment.
Harwood and TFM continued to have e-mail contact after she left his employ. “On some occasions TFM sent e-mails in which she discussed certain cases pending before him concerning her friends. It appears that TFM felt she could discuss these improper subject with Judge Harwood, and he did nothing to discourage her from contacting him or discussing the matters,” the admonishment states.
“Judge Harwood developed an unfavorable reputation in his work environment and perhaps in the community concerning his attitude toward women as sex objects, which was contributed to by his use of language of a sexual nature and his crude utterances about a woman’s physical appearance,” the admonishment states.
The investigation found that Harwood violated multiple canons of the state’s Judicial Code of Conduct because of the relationship with his secretary. Harwood also gave inappropriate legal advice to a friend who had a case pending in another county’s family court system.
Judges are not allowed to give legal advice, according to the Code of Conduct.
Harwood served as an Logan County assistant prosecutor and a public defender before being elected family court judge.

About Me

A local archivist who specializes in all things Pocahontas County