CHARLESTON – All three levels of government, two individuals and a debt-consolidation firm are staking their claim on a six-figure income earned by a Kanawha County attorney serving as a mental hygiene commissioner.
In fiscal year 2005-06, South Charleston attorney Theodore R. "Ted" Dues, Jr. was the highest paid mental hygiene commissioner in West Virginia. According to information provided by the state Supreme Court, Dues was compensated $113,103.25.
The amount paid to Dues was just over 10 percent of the entire $1,075,148.72 paid by the Court for mental hygiene services. In West Virginia, mental hygiene commissioners preside over matters pertaining to those who've been deemed to be a danger to themselves or others as a result of mental illness or addiction.
Records on file in the Kanawha County Clerk's Office show that Dues has debts exceeding his $113,000 income. The largest of these debts are judgments won by two local people and a Greenville, S.C.-based debt-consolidation firm for lawsuits they won in Kanawha County Circuit and Magistrate courts.
Fired firefighter wins legal malpractice case
According to court records, the largest debt Dues owes is to Jason Davis, a Scott Depot fencing contractor and former Charleston firefighter. As of Aug. 23, 2005, Dues was in arrears $86, 878.76 to Davis, court record show.
In 1998, Davis, with the assistance of South Charleston Mayor Ritchie A. Robb, brought suit against Dues (Jason Davis v. Theodore R. Dues, Jr., L.C. – Kanawha County Circuit Court, Case No. 98-C-3011). In his suit, Davis alleged Dues erroneously filed a lawsuit on Davis' behalf in U.S. District Court against the City of Charleston for wrongful termination, according to court records.
In 1996, Davis was fired from the Charleston Fire Department for reasons not immediately clear, court records show. After the department's Civil Service Commission denied his appeal on Sept. 5, 1996, court records show Davis hired Dues to file a lawsuit.
Though he filed the suit within the statutory 90 days, court records show Dues incorrectly filed the suit in U.S. District Court, not Kanawha County Circuit Court. According to court records, the suit was dismissed on Sep. 12, 1997.
According to court records, Davis was not aware of the dismissal until the next month when he checked with Dues concerning its status. In 1998, Davis brought suit against Dues for "negligence, misrepresentation and breach of contract in not filing an appeal."
On Sep. 29, 2003, a Kanawha County jury agreed with Davis, and awarded him $75,000 – $5,000 in legal fees and $70,000 in damages. According to court records, Judge Robert G. Chafin, who was appointed to hear the case when all Kanawha County judges recused themselves, asked the jury to return a directed verdict on Davis' behalf.
Attempts to get Dues to pay the money he owes Davis have thus far been unsuccessful, Robb said. Though the declined to say how much, Robb says Dues has paid "very little."
An attempt to get Dues to make good on what he owes, Robb says, was made in August 2005 when Robb filed paperwork to garnish the wages Dues was paid as a hearing examiner for the state Department of Health and Human Resources. By that date, court records show the amount Dues owed Davis grew from $75,000 to over $86,000 because of a court-imposed 10 percent per year interest penalty.
The attempt was unsuccessful, Robb said, because by that time Dues was no longer employed by DHHR. However, Robb says he's still determined to obtain the money owed his client.
"We're still going to collect on it, voluntarily or involuntarily," Robb said.
Liens placed on home
Others attempting to collect on money owed them through successful suits are LVNV Funding, a Greenville, S.C. debt-consolidation firm, and Bonnie K. Wolfe, a certified court reporter based in South Charleston. According to court records, LVNV won a judgment against Dues for $14,277.79 plus court costs and interest on Nov. 7, 2005 with Wolfe awarded $1,604.50 plus court costs and interest on Sept. 15, 2003 (LVNV Funding, L.L.C, assignee of Sherman Acquisition, L.P., assignee of Providian Financial Corp. v. Ted Dues - Kanawha County Circuit Court, Case No. 05-C-1683 and Bonnie K. Wolfe v. Ted Dues - Kanawha County Magistrate Court, Case No. 03-C-2393).
According to court records, LVNV filed suit to collect on the outstanding balance of $13,815.95 Dues owed on a credit card as of June 21, 2005. The credit card holder, Providian Financial Corp., assigned the collection to Sherman Acquisition, who later assigned the task to LVNV.
On Nov. 7, LVNV and Dues agreed to settle the suit with Dues making regularly scheduled payments to LVNV. The order in the court file states that LVNV agrees not to execute judgment against Dues so long as he "makes timely payments each month in the amount of $500, so long as payments are not more than 10 days past the scheduled due date of the 30th of each month."
However, Dues has apparently failed to make the scheduled payments as LVNV executed judgment against him by filing a lien against Dues' home on Dec. 27, records show.
According to county tax records, the home Dues owns with his wife, Mona, a Kanawha County Juvenile Referee and former professor of criminal justice at West Virginia State University, on Upland Drive in South Charleston is assessed at $58,380. The Dues's are in arrears $977 for 2005 property taxes, according to the Kanawha County Sheriff's Department.
A juvenile referee handles the initial process of juvenile delinquency petitions. According to the state Auditor's Office, Mona has worked in that capacity since Feb. 14, 2001 and makes an annual salary of $42, 462.
Wolfe, too, has resorted to filing a lien against Dues' home in her attempt to execute the judgment awarded her. Though she declined to comment beyond what was already in the court file, Wolfe said in her 32 years as a court reporter, this is the first time she's had to take collection efforts this far.
According to court records, Wolfe's suit stems from Dues failing to pay her for transcription services she performed in four cases. One of those cases pertained to Nancy C. Cooper, one of the nine clients who filed a complaint with the Office of Disciplinary Counsel in 2003 which led to the Lawyer Disciplinary Board bringing a statement of charges against him.
Wolfe won the case by default when Dues failed to show for the scheduled court date, records show. Also, contained within the case file is a certified letter sent to Dues serving him with notice of the suit which was returned as unclaimed.
Liens filed for unpaid taxes
LVNV and Wolfe are not the only ones with liens filed against Dues. Records show multiple liens filed by the federal government, state of West Virginia and City of Charleston for back taxes.
The IRS filed a lien against the Dues's on April 29, 2003, records show. The lien was in the amount of $10,011.79 from back taxes on their 2000 return.
The state Department of Tax and Revenue has three liens totaling $6,653.70 against Ted and Mona, and three additional ones against Ted in this capacity as a lawyer. According to records, the liens against Ted and Mona were filed on Dec. 31, 1999, Oct. 3, 2001 and Jan. 24, 2002 for their 1998 and 2000 returns, respectfully.
The three liens against Dues' law practice were all filed on Nov. 3, 2005, for his 2001-2003 returns.
Also, the tax department filed a lien against Dues on April 15, 2001 for $57.91 for an arrearage on his 1999 franchise tax. Furthermore, the state Bureau of Employment Programs filed two workers' compensation liens against Dues – one on Sept. 21, 2001, and the other on Aug. 6, 2003 – totaling $1,026.79.
Finally, the City of Charleston filed a lien against Dues on July 20, 2005. According to records, the city is seeking $1,162.07 in unpaid fourth quarter 2004 city taxes.