CHARLESTON -- A former Mingo County deputy circuit clerk claims a disgraced judge slandered her and had her fired, according to a recently filed complaint.
Candice Harper filed her lawsuit last month against former Mingo Circuit Judge Michael Thornsbury in Kanawha Circuit Court. Also listed as defendants are Mingo County Director of 911 and Mingo County Director of Homeland Security Jarrod Fletcher, state Supreme Court Administrator Steve Canterbury and the Mingo County Commission.
Harper was a deputy in the Mingo County Circuit Clerk’s office and a clerk to the Mingo County Magistrate Court. She also is Thornsbury’s niece.
“While employed by the Mingo County Magistrate Clerk’s Office, plaintiff’s direct supervisor was Terry Sanders, however, plaintiff worked at the will and pleasure of defendant Thornsbury,” the complaint filed May 2 states.
Harper says that in the spring of 2009, she learned Thornsbury was having an affair with a woman in the Mingo County Probation Office. That woman later became his secretary, Harper claims. She also says Thornsbury had “various affairs with women in the community.”
When Thornsbury learned Harper knew of the affair, he “had great fear that plaintiff would tell Thornsbury’s wife about the affair.” That’s when Harper’s relationship with Thornsbury “soured dramatically,” according to the complaint.
Harper says Sanders began questioning the time she took off work, and she claims six original time sheets were discovered to be missing from Thornsbury’s office.
She claims Sanders later informed her that he was instructed by Thornsbury “to secretly document plaintiff’s work time incorrectly in a deliberate attempt to have her wrongfully terminated.”
She says Thornsbury and former Mingo County Magistrate Eugene Crum conspired to force her out of her job.
Harper says that in August 2011, she was summoned to Crum’s office and “was threatened with criminal prosecution if she did not leave her job” in the Magistrate Clerk’s Office and take a job with Crum, who later became Mingo County Sheriff. He was shot and killed in a Williamson parking lot last year.
“Thornsbury directed Magistrate Crum to make these threats in order to cause plaintiff emotional distress and force her to leave her job,” the complaint states.
In May 2012, Harper says she was told by Thornsbury to move out of the apartment she rented from him and Fletcher because the building had been sold to another landlord. Her water was shut off that day as well.
She claims Fletcher, who is described as a close friend of Thornsbury in the complaint, “had the tool necessary to shut off plaintiff’s water and did so in an effort to harass plaintiff.”
She says she later learned the building was not sold and that Thornsbury and Fletcher still own it.
Harper goes on to say that two days after his daughter’s wedding that she refused to attend after learning of his affair, Thornsbury had Harper’s computer usage audited and alleged she was using her work computer to view Facebook, Twitter and Verizon webpages “even though she did not have an account with any of these social media websites at the time.”
Thornsbury was indicted last year on conspiracy charges and accused of using his position “to frame a romantic rival for crimes he didn’t commit.” The state Supreme Court subsequently suspended the judge and his law license.
Last month, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin appointed Family Court Judge Miki Thompson as Mingo Circuit Judge shortly after she won the primary election for the seat. Two senior status judges had been presiding in Mingo County since Thorsnbury’s resignation last year.
Federal prosecutors say Thornsbury used his position to orchestrate a scheme to protect Crum from accusations of illegal drug use by keeping a campaign sign maker from talking to the FBI.
Thornsbury and former prosecutor Michael Sparks, who also has lost his law license, were convicted in the corruption scheme. Former County Commissioner David Baisden was implicated but not charged. Instead, he was sentenced in an unrelated case after authorities said he tried to get a store to sell him tires for his personal use at a government contract rate.
Thornsbury, who served as judge 16 years, pleaded guilty in federal court last year to conspiring to deprive the constitutional rights of a man he sentenced on drug charges and resigned. He is scheduled to be sentenced soon on the federal criminal conviction.
When federal investigators began looking into claims against Thornsbury, Fletcher and others in Mingo County, Harper said they spoke with her.
“Plaintiff told federal officials what she knew regarding the illegal conduct of defendants Thornsbury and Fletcher,” the complaint states. “Upon information and belief, in an attempt to discredit plaintiff, defendants Thornsbury knowingly spread false rumors that plaintiff was having an affair with a FBI agent” to discredit her.
She said she was forced to leave the magistrate clerk’s office “after enduring nearly a year of defendants Thornsbury and Fletcher’s constant harassment and humiliation.” She claims she sustained humiliation and mental anguish as well as developing “stress related illnesses which required her to miss work.”
She claims the defendants created a hostile work environment, intentionally inflicted emotional distress, maliciously discharged her and slandered her.
Harper seeks compensatory damages for her economic losses, emotional distress, humiliation, disparagement and lost wages -- both back pay and front pay. She also seeks punitive damages for the defendants’ grossly negligent actions.
“Plaintiff does not seek relief from any agency of the State of West Virginia that exceeds the limit of the applicable insurance policy, but plaintiff seeks damages in excess of the State insurance limit against defendants individually,” the complaint states.
Thornsbury, who is set for sentencing next Monday, previously pleaded guilty to a federal conspiracy charge after prosecutors say he schemed with other officials to stop a man from talking to the FBI about the alleged drug activity of slain Sheriff Eugene Crum.
In his response, Thornsbury denies Harper's allegations and seeks to have the case dismissed., represented by attorney William Slicer, responded to the allegations Wednesday, asking for the lawsuit’s dismissal.
Thornsbury, in his response, also said he is entitled to immunity from damages because he didn't deprive Harper of her Constitutional rights.
Harper is being represented by attorneys Michael O. Callaghan and Joshua R. Martin of the Charleston law firm of Neely & Callaghan. Thornsbury is being represented by attorney William Slicer. The case has been assigned to Circuit Judge Tod Kaufman.
Thornsbury has been named in other civil litigation. In federal court, two lawsuits allege Thornsbury repeatedly tried to frame Robert Woodruff in an effort to get his wife Kimberly Woodruff to resume a romantic relationship with him. The state Supreme Court’s insurance provider -- National Union Fire Insurance Company of Pittsburgh -- filed documents last month saying it didn’t have to cover those claims because Thornsbury wasn’t acting in the capacity as a judge.
Kanawha Circuit Court case number: 14-C-827