Dismissed complaint at odds with Golden's account

By Lawrence Smith | Aug 1, 2008

CHARLESTON – Though Ellen Golden will be defending herself against one less ethics complaint with the state Bar, information contained in it seemingly contradicts her claim about her telephone service provider being to blame for not being able to communicate with her bankruptcy clients.

In addition to reporting on the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District barring Golden from filing future bankruptcies for a year, The West Virginia Record detailed how Golden had four pending complaints against her with the Office of Disciplinary Counsel, the Bar's investigative arm. According to ODC's records, one complaint was filed in August 2007, two in February and the last in May.

Because complaints are not made public until an investigation is complete, it was unclear if any of those complaints were filed by any of Golden's five former bankruptcy clients who complained to the U.S. Bankruptcy Trustee's Office in January about Golden not returning their repeated telephone calls.

However, ODC has since dismissed the complaint filed against Golden in May. Though a former client who paid her to assist him with bankruptcy filed it, he was not among the five who complained to the Trustee.

Complaint lodged too late

In his complaint filed on May 23, Donald L. McCune of Charleston alleges he paid Golden $730 on Aug. 26, 2003, to file for bankruptcy. However, he claims that it was never filed, and she never returned the repeated telephone calls he made to her during the next year.

Eventually, McCune said he was able to speak with Golden via telephone on Jan. 25. When he asked for a refund, he says Golden blamed him for the bankruptcy not being filed because he failed to keep in contact her.

When McCune reminded her of the repeated telephone calls she did not return between 2003 and 2004, "She the abruptly ended our telephone conversation." In his complaint, McCune, 65, a retired businessman who know lives on Social Security, asked for ODC's help in getting the bankruptcy filed or a refund on what he paid Golden.

In a letter dated May 30, Lawyer Disciplinary Counsel Andrea J. Hinerman informed McCune ODC could not help him because he filed his complaint past the statute of limitations.

"It appears that you have known of your allegations of misconduct since at least 2004," Hinerman wrote.

"However, you did not file your complaint until May 23, 2008, nearly four years from the time you knew or shown you should have known of Ms. Golden's unethical conduct in representing you."

Contradictory accounts

Despite ODC declining to docket it, McCune's complaint contradicts Golden's account of her failure to communicate with her former clients who lodged complaints with the Trustee.

When contacted about the matter, Golden said after she closed her office on Quarrier Street in Charleston in January, she called her telephone service provider and asked them to reroute calls to her home in South Charleston. Though she did not say who her provider was, Golden said she received no business calls from the time she closed the office until Feb. 27 – the same day the Trustee's office entered its motion to have Golden removed from the cases of the five former clients.

However, McCune, in both his complaint and in an interview with The Record, avers he called Golden at her office telephone number and spoke with her on Jan. 25.

When The Record contacted Golden about this, she replied, "I have nothing more to say."

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