Judge: Ex-Dunbar mayor must pay ethics fines
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Former Dunbar mayor Roger Wolfe must pay more than $25,000 in fines and restitution ordered by the West Virginia Ethics Commission, a Kanawha County judge ruled Thursday.
Ethics Commission members ruled last July that Wolfe had used his office for personal gain, and ordered him to pay the city of Dunbar back more than $5,700 in illegal expenses Wolfe claimed while he was mayor, pay a $15,000 fine and reimburse the Ethics Commission more than $5,700 in court costs.
Circuit Judge Jennifer Bailey said Thursday that Wolfe, who was removed from office in 2008, must comply with the Ethics Commission's order and pay his fines, interest and court costs.
Wolfe began butting heads with members of the Dunbar City Council shortly after taking office in 2005. Several council members took him to court and, in 2008 a three-judge panel appointed by the West Virginia Supreme Court ordered Wolfe removed from office.
Among the judges' findings were that Wolfe bought an $8,000 truck without approval, illegally paid himself more than $10,000 in expenses and made donations to local groups without permission.
At about the same time, council members filed an ethics complaint against Wolfe. Last year, the Ethics Commission agreed with the three-judge panel that Wolfe had spent money without the City Council approval, and levied the fines.
Wolfe refused to pay the fines, saying his side of the story was never heard and arguing that he had been railroaded by the court system and the Ethics Commission.
"I flatly refuse to give them one penny because of their unethical decisions in my cases," Wolfe said at the time.
In court Thursday, Wolfe again said he had been unjustly punished, and said City Council members lied to court officials and the Ethics Commission.
"It's a lie," Wolfe said. "It was a conspiracy to get me out of office. I've lived in hell for seven years. My life has been destroyed over the lies that [council members] have told."
Wolfe also said the nearly $27,000 in fines is unfair.
"I don't have any money," he told Bailey. "That's why I'm here today."
Bailey said she had authority only to rule on whether to uphold the Ethics Commission's order. She repeatedly told Wolfe she would not hear evidence that the Ethics Commission or previous judges did anything wrong.
If Wolfe thought the Ethics Commission didn't give him a fair hearing, he should have appealed their ruling, Bailey said. If he thought witnesses had lied in court or to the Ethics Commission, he should have gone to county prosecutors, the judge said.
"I understand that you disagreed with the entire procedure," she said. "There are other remedies."
Reach Rusty Marks at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-1215.