EKLINS – A familiar face returns to the Randolph County Prosecutor's Office to lead it for at least the next year.
The Randolph County Commission on Dec. 23 appointed Michael W. Parker, an associate at the Elkins office of McNeer, Highland, McMunn & Varner, to fill the unexpired term of former prosecutor Richard Busch.
Parker, 32, who worked as an assistant prosecutor from 2005 until 2008 before taking a job at McNeer, Highland, McMunn and Varner, was sworn into office Jan. 3.
Parker, a native of White Sulphur Springs, joined fellow Randolph County attorneys Frank P. Bush, Dwight R. Hall, Christina Harper, Philip S. Isner and Earl W. Maxwell as well as Kurt W. Hall, an assistant Harrison County prosecutor, to be Busch's replacement. The Commission interviewed all the candidates over a two-day period before finally choosing Parker.
Busch, who was first elected prosecutor in 2008, abruptly resigned on Dec. 5 as the Commission was preparing to accept a report from Charleston attorney Jim Lees they hired to conduct an inquiry into personnel problems at the prosecutor's office. Because of Busch's resignation, the Commission agreed not to accept Lees' report or make it public.
During the last year, Busch was accused of multiple acts of misconduct, including making material misrepresentations in the case of Autumn Faulkner, a former Elkins Middle School teacher accused of having sex with one of her former students. An indictment brought against Faulkner in February was dismissed in June when Busch failed to provide a videotaped interview between police, and the alleged victim to Faulkner's attorney.
Initially, Busch blamed the investigating officer, West Virginia State Trooper First Class A.S. Loudin for losing the tape. However, he later took responsibility for losing it.
Because he not only lost the tape, but also initially blamed Loudin for the loss, Randolph Circuit Judge Jaymie Godwin Wilfong found Busch in contempt. In lieu of sanctioning him, Wilfong referred the matter to the Office of Disciplinary Counsel, the arm of the state Supreme Court that investigates attorney misconduct.
At his contempt hearing, it was revealed Wilfong filed a prior complaint against Busch with ODC. The first came after she dismissed the first indictment against Faulkner in January after it was learned the indictment returned in October 2010 was tainted due to an unsolicited comment made by one of the jurors.
Following dismissal of the second indictment, Wilfong in September appointed Parker's now former law partner, Steve Jory, as a special prosecutor in Faulkner's case. He has yet to make a decision on whether to re-indict Faulkner or dismiss the case.
According to the Randolph County Clerk's Office, Parker's salary will be $92,200. If he wishes to remain as prosecutor, he will have to run for a full term in this year's election.