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Ex-Mingo judge accused of harassing clerk after she learned of his affair

By Andrea Lannom, Charleston Daily Mail, W.Va.
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

May 06--Former Mingo County Circuit Judge Michael Thornsbury faces yet another civil lawsuit -- this time asserting the judge created a hostile work environment that eventually forced a former magistrate clerk out of her job.

Candice Harper, represented by attorney Michael Callaghan, asserts her relationship with the former judge "soured dramatically" after she found out about his affair.

Her lawsuit asserts once Thornsbury found out she knew about the affair, he started harassing her in various ways including asking her direct supervisor to incorrectly document her work time in order to get her fired.

She also said she later discovered six of her original time sheets were missing from Thornsbury's office.

Harper, who is Thornsbury's niece by marriage, filed the lawsuit last Friday in Kanawha County Circuit Court against Thornsbury, Jarrod Fletcher, Steven Canterbury and the Mingo County Commission. The lawsuit is assigned to Kanawha Circuit Judge Tod Kaufman.

In her lawsuit, Harper said she worked as a deputy in the magistrate clerk's office until 2012, when she says Thornsbury's and Fletcher's "constant harassment" forced her to take another job with Magistrate Deloris "Dee" Sidebottom.

Harper's suit also alleges that since-slain Mingo Sheriff Eugene Crum, who served as magistrate at that time, conspired with Thornsbury to get her out of her current job.

She asserts in August 2011, Crum called her into his office and threatened her with criminal prosecution if she didn't leave her job and take a position in his office. She said Thornsbury told Crum to make these threats.

Harper said harassment continued when Thornsbury later told her to move out of an apartment she was renting from Thornsbury and Fletcher. She said Fletcher turned off her water the same day she was told to move out.

Although she said Thornsbury told her the apartment building was sold to another landlord, she said the sale never happened and Thornsbury and Fletcher still own it.

She also asserts Thornsbury singled her out on how she used her work computer, saying she used the computer to view social media websites when she asserts she didn't have an account with the sites. She also said she was singled out on time sheet audits.

Harper said after she talked to federal agents about Thornsbury and Fletcher, Thornsbury spread rumors about her that she was having an affair with an FBI agent.

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This isn't the first time Thornsbury has been the target of civil litigation. Recently, his insurance provider under the state Supreme Court recently filed an action in federal court, saying its policies do not cover Thornsbury's defense in two lawsuits filed by Kimberly and Robert Woodruff.

These lawsuits allege Thornsbury repeatedly tried to frame Kimberly's husband Robert in an attempt to get her to resume a romantic relationship with him.

The U.S. Attorney's Office originally charged Thornsbury related to these allegations but he later ended up pleading guilty to scheming with other officials to stop former sign maker George White from speaking to the FBI about the late sheriff's alleged drug activity.

In its document filed last week, the National Union Fire Insurance Company of Pittsburgh said it doesn't cover these allegations because Thornsbury wasn't "acting within the scope of his duties" as a circuit judge.

The insurance company filed a similar action against Fletcher last week, saying its insurance policies do not cover him in these same lawsuits.

Thornsbury and several other Mingo County officials targeted in the federal investigation also face lawsuits filed by a former sign maker and a former Mingo County private investigator.

George White, the sign maker, previously filed a lawsuit alleging former Mingo officials framed him and deprived him of his right to hire the attorney he wanted.

Donald Ray Stevens and his wife Ruby Stevens also filed a lawsuit alleging several former county officials framed him and caused him to shut down his Williamson private investigator agency.

Contact writer Andrea Lannom at Andrea.Lannom@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-5148. Follow her at www.twitter.com/AndreaLannom.

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(c)2014 the Charleston Daily Mail (Charleston, W.Va.)

Visit the Charleston Daily Mail (Charleston, W.Va.) at www.dailymail.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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