Judge Carter Williams is facing a myriad of consequences at next week’s State Supreme Court hearing – including suspension partially without pay, whopping fines and censuring for his violations.
Public court documents related to the case include a petitioner’s brief compiled by the Judicial Disciplinary Counsel urging the court to admonish the judge with the recommended consequences.
Williams was stopped by Moorefield police officer Deavonta Johnson in July 2021 because he had a phone in his hand. At the traffic stop, Williams berated Johnson and afterward called multiple local officials – including Johnson’s supervisor.
The traffic stop was recorded on Johnson’s body cam.
The Judicial Hearing Board found Williams’ behavior during and immediately following the traffic stop to be unethical, but concluded that there wasn’t any clear evidence of racism against Johnson, who is African-American, or compelling evidence to hold Williams accountable for a different situation where he walked out of the Moorefield Walmart without paying for his goods.
Both Williams and the retailer maintained it was a matter of Williams not paying attention.
A 71-page document from the Judicial Disciplinary Counsel argued that “serious sanctions are warranted” by Williams’ behavior during and after the traffic stop – which was further inflamed by his invocation of his judicial status into each conversation, first with Johnson and then afterward to other law enforcement officials, along with the Moorefield mayor.
The brief also described that the public perception of Williams following his interaction with Johnson may show that the judge is biased against African Americans and young people with his use of the term “boy,” and “your boy” when referring to Johnson after the incident.
The Counsel argued that Williams’ words and actions implied retaliation on his part, which “sent the message that the judge believes himself above the law.”
The brief continues, adding, “Given that, how can (Williams) remain an effective beacon of judicial integrity? He can’t. The only way to restore judicial integrity is through the discipline necessary to mitigate the harm already done.”
Finally, the Counsel made the point that because of press coverage of the incident, social media accounts relaying the incident and comments relating to both, the entire incident has demonstrated that there is “significant harm to the integrity of the judiciary.”
At the Feb. 8 hearing, the State Supreme Court will make an official decision regarding Williams’ consequences.
The Judicial Hearing Board’s recommendations are:
• That Williams be suspended for a period of one year due to the violations against both the Code of Judicial Conduct and the Rules of Professional Conduct;
• That three months of the one-year suspension be served without pay;
• That the remainder of the one-year suspension be stayed pending Williams’ supervised probation under the terms of his contract with JLAP (Judges and Lawyers Assistance Program);
• That a period of nine months’ suspension without pay be imposed immediately if the terms of the contract with JLAP are violated;
• That Williams be fined $5,000 for his code violations
• That Williams be censured for his violations. The Counsel defined a censure as the “most serious of the written reprimands,” and said that is constitutes a “formal condemnation of a judge who has engaged in conduct which violates the Code.”
• That Williams pay the costs of the proceedings in the amount of $11,129.06, as well as other costs incurred.
The counsel’s conclusion urges the Board to consider the “only correct form of discipline” in this scenario: suspension without pay.
“Anything less, and Respondent can proudly claim he won the war. Actions speak a whole lot louder than words,” they said, adding that while he seems contrite, his words “ring hollow.”
“(His) actions demonstrate a man who lacks judicial temperament and candor, is bent on revenge and has no remorse,” they concluded. “It appears that he is sorry he got caught. He does not care about the harm he caused to the integrity of the judiciary.”
Williams will appear before the Supreme Court next Wednesday, Feb. 8.
Tourism numbers are up, up, up in Hampshire County this year – in fact, they’re up 30 percent six months into the fiscal year, dwarfing numbers from the last couple years.
Tina Ladd, director of the Hampshire County Convention and Visitors Bureau, cited the Covid-19 pandemic as one of the top reasons tourism has not only been booming in Hampshire – but the entire Mountain State as a whole.
“I don’t think that people realize how much tourism is in the county. I don’t know that anyone has ever realized how much tourism is in the state of West Virginia,” she said. “I think that once Covid hit, it was an eye-opener.”
The money brought in through lodging taxes in Hampshire County is split right in half, Ladd said, and divided between the CVB and Parks & Recreation.
In 2018, Ladd said the organization had the “biggest year” ever prior to Covid, bringing in $51,632, and then the numbers for the next two years dropped because of the pandemic, first to $46,102 in 2019-20 and then $43,724 in 2020-21.
It’s hard to do a good job with marketing and advertising with only about $50,000, Ladd explained.
Last fiscal year, however, the numbers began to climb again, bringing in $63,495.
“Those are some pretty impressive increases in people coming here and spending money,” said Commission President Brian Eglinger at last Tuesday’s meeting, where he offered a few numbers about Hampshire County tourism in his president’s report. “I wanted to be more aggressive with the CVB. I’m a facts and figures person, and those facts and figures are showing it.”
The CVB became accredited in 2021 and 2022 with help and support from the Commission.
Eglinger attributed a lot of the CVB’s success to their efforts in advertising; Ladd said that the advertising targets a 55-mile radius with the center being Augusta, thereby marketing to local folks and those who live beyond Hampshire’s borders.
For the fiscal year that began in July, the CVB is already clocking in at $51,343 – with half of the year still to go.
“By the end of the year, I’m expecting we should (bring in) $160,000 total, and $80,000 of that should come to the CVB,” Ladd predicted.
Hampshire County might be a hidden gem of West Virginia tourism – a little different from the draws of Charleston or, say, Tucker County – but Ladd said she’s aiming to capitalize on our strengths, charms and everything we have to offer.
After the success of last summer’s Farm Crawl, which gave farmers here an opportunity to host open houses for the community, there’s another Hampshire-centric event on the horizon: the Potomac Highlands Sportsman & Outdoor Show.
“I’ve had a lot of folks interested in that, and I’ve been hearing good feedback. People are happy that this is happening in the area,” Ladd said. “This is something to target our locals and also targeting tourists…lots of people come here to hunt, fish, float the river and hike, and it doesn’t limit it to people in this area.”
After the pandemic hit, there was a tangible change in the flux of people who looked to West Virginia to “get away.”
“The pandemic helped West Virginia in that regard,” Ladd pointed out. “People want to have space, get outside…we’re going to do everything we can to keep people coming here.”
ROMNEY — While the rest of the nation worries about the skyrocketing costs of food, gas and life in general, the Romney First United Church volunteers show up with enthusiasm and a big smile to help their community.
Romney First United Church’s food pantry serves the county’s biggest population of families in need, currently averaging more than 150 families a month just at the Romney location alone.
“When I came back from Covid, we were at 110, once we were (fully) open,” Romney Food Pantry Director Dick Gray said.
Gray admitted that the rise of costs had made him even dip into the county’s food pantry savings account because “the regular donations haven’t been keeping up in the last four months,” the entire year of 2022, really.
He is buying around 7,000 pounds of food a month, which is definitely “more than it was.”
Though July is technically the time families are supposed to sign up to be able to receive food, Gray said, “people keep showing up – you never know how many are going to show up.”
Gray hasn’t seen an easy time since he stepped into the Romney director position in the summer of 2020, but the volunteers’ good humor keeps everything afloat.
When asked why they give so much time and energy into helping others, Gray smiled wide and answered, “It’s just a service. That’s what we all do here.”
Places like Sheetz, Food Lion and 711 give away their outdated foods, such as cakes and other sweets. However, Gray has a list of food necessities that he orders to make a well-rounded “nutritional” meal for the families. These foods include high-quality grains, canned vegetables and lots of protein.
The Mountaineer Food Bank – a federally funded program based out of Gassaway– delivers things like almonds, pistachios and many other types of canned foods, but Gray still has to purchase a lot.
“I get a lot stuff from Shop ‘n Save,” he added, but ultimately, it is the donations, fundraisers and generosity from the community that keep the food pantries in the county going.
Last week, a farmer (who asked to remain anonymous) gifted one of their cows to the pantry. The Augusta Ruritan Club paid for the slaughtering and butchering of the beef.
For now, the Romney Food Pantry is well equipped with willing volunteers.
“We have a regular group of people that usually comes each day, a different group, anywhere from eight to 10 people each day,” Gray said happily.
The Mountaineer Food Bank delivers food to four other organizations in the county, such as Hampshire County Pathways.
The other food pantries in the county are located in Springfield at Springfield Assembly of God and Springfield Treasure House (next to the senior center), Augusta at St. Peter’s Church of Deliverance, Capon Bridge at Amazing Grace Baptist Church and Living Waters Church, and in Rio at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church.
The SOUPer Bowl of Caring food drive, a nationwide program, is back for the 32nd year, and it runs now until Feb. 13, but monetary or non-expired donations are welcome after that date. The food and contributions gifted to the county stay in the county and add to the inventory supporting all of Hampshire County. If you’re interested in helping, contact Dot Calvert at 304-822-5496 or Romney Methodist Church at 304-822-3023 and ask for Jennifer Roberts or Gray.
The Romney First United Methodist Church food pantry is open from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.
SUNRISE SUMMIT — After five years of planning, awaiting licensure and fighting the onslaught of supply chain issues and contracting availability, Curative Growth will open its first of three cannabis dispensaries hopefully by this spring.
The Orchard Dispensary, located at 22 Hannas Road, will occupy the back portion of the building that houses Jill’s Barber Shop.
Curative Growth Founder Bryan Steward, a Springfield native, partnered with the Chesapeake Apothecary firm from Maryland – whose CEO, Seth Erlin, recently opened the Foundry in Weirton this summer. The Foundry was the first medical cannabis dispensary to open in the Northern Panhandle, said the West Virginia Office of Medical Cannabis.
The two teams have united to open three dispensaries; one in Fairmont, one in Morgantown and the Orchard Dispensary in Sunrise Summit – with the latter expected to open first.
“We started construction about three months ago at the beginning of October when we got our building permits straightened out,” said Jacklyn Enlow, with Chesapeake Apothecary. “(The Orchard) should be opening in the next four to six weeks.”
Steward had known the two entrepreneurs for over a year and had wanted to partner with them, but it was only after the opening of the Foundry that the Curative Growth group saw a need to partner with them.
“They wanted to work with us because they weren’t as experienced in the cannabis industry,” Enlow explained.
Curative Growth became a West Virginia corporation in 2018, shortly after lawmakers passed a bill in 2017 that legalized medical marijuana and created the West Virginia Medical Cannabis Act. Steward was granted permission to open his dispensaries, but was denied the ability to grow and process the plant.
As of Jan. 27, 2023, there are nine operational growers, six operational processors and 40 operational dispensaries in the Mountain State.
Enlow and Erlin used their expertise and established connections within Maryland – and now West Virginia – to ensure that all three new dispensaries would receive lab-tested products of the highest quality.
“We use about six of the different suppliers right now that we have relationships with; they’re all willing to supply our new stores,” Enlow said, with Morgantown being the hardest to supply due to the completion of the location.
Enlow added that while Steward and his partners, Rustin Nadjmabadi and John Martin, will continue to serve as board members and part owners of Curative Growth, Enlow and Erlin will conduct the “day-to-day operations.”
“We are full-time cannabis people, between running our different cannabis licenses and doing consulting with groups like this,” Enlow explained of the relationship.
The interior design for the Orchard Dispensary still needs its finishing touches. Erlin said having something like original stamping, old photographs, or even artifacts from apple and peach farms would highlight the importance of the town’s history.
“Coming from rural southern Maryland ourselves, we want to come into the community as a small business the right way,” Erlin said, adding, “Jobs can lead to careers.”
Enlow shared that the plan is to staff six people per store and scale up to 12, and that the hours will depend on the need of the customers.
As far as feedback, Erlin said, “we are very happy with the support we’ve seen.”
The collective has tossed the idea of holding a panel discussion to educate Hampshire County residents and answer their questions.
Erlin thought that a four-day week – most likely Wednesday through Saturday – would be an excellent place to start, but that the community would ultimately shape the Orchard’s hours. The goal is to have 50-100 patients to be able to open four to six days a week with six employees, he said.
Those who wish to obtain a Medical Cannabis card must first visit one of the registered physicians and get a completed Physician’s Certification for Qualified Patients form, complete an application and submit payment. Residents should expect a waiting period of 30-60 days to receive the status of denial or approval of their application.
The West Virginia Office of Medical Cannabis (OMC) is taking applications for residents with certain serious medical conditions such as PTSD, cancer, Crohn’s disease, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis and more.
There are no registered physicians in Hampshire County currently. However, a complete list of providers can be found through the OMC website, omc.wv.gov, by clicking the “Patients” tab and clicking on the “find a registered physician here” link where their city, county and specialties organize approved physicians.
Registered physicians are also available via Telehealth on the OMC site.
Interested physicians who go through the training course may become eligible to be added to the list. Only registered physicians can submit a copy of the Completed Patient Certification form directly to the Office of Medical Cannabis.
JUNCTION — A Burlington man was found dead after crews responded to a “suspicious” fire in Junction on Saturday.
The Hampshire County 911 Center received a call at about 2 p.m. Saturday afternoon regarding a “suspicious house fire,” reported the West Virginia State Police, on Larian Drive in the Windy Acres subdivision in Junction, just north of Route 50.
Romney Fire and EMS responded to the call, along with Springfield Fire and EMS, Mineral County fire companies, Burlington, Moorefield, Fountain and New Creek.
Trooper S.W. Rigsby from the State Police also responded, and was made aware by the Romney Fire Company that there was a deceased man in the residence that they’d located after the fire had been extinguished.
The man, Jeffrey Boyd, 57, appeared to have a gunshot wound upon discovery.
The State Police crime scene team was deployed to the scene to conduct further investigation, along with the West Virginia State Fire Marshal’s Office and Medical Examiner Chris Gwinn.
The investigation is still ongoing, and more information will be available as the story develops.