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Fouty removed from Kanawha magistrate race

CHARLESTON, W. Va. -- The State Election Commission removed former Kanawha County Magistrate Carol Fouty from the November ballot during an emergency meeting on Wednesday. The county's Republican Party now has less than a week to name a replacement nominee.

The State Judicial Investigation Commission charged Fouty in April with five counts of violating the ethics code for allegedly handing out favors from the bench, negotiating bond amounts and not recusing herself from conflicts of interest.

As part of a tentative settlement, Fouty pleaded guilty to one of the counts, resigned immediately and promised to remove herself from November's election.

However, she didn't mention the settlement in a request to the State Election Commission. She wanted to remove herself from the election "due to ongoing health problems and to spend more time with my family," she wrote.

Election Committeeman Gary Collias expressed concern that Fouty was trying to hide her removal for legal reasons by citing health issues.

She previously declined to name her health problems and cited HIPAA, a federal medical privacy law, he said.

"She's citing HIPAA for not giving up her own health information, which is ridiculous," Collias said. "It's her own health information."

Tim Morris, chairman of the Kanawha County Republican Executive Committee, also filed a request to remove Fouty on Tuesday. Morris clarified in his request that Fouty was required to resign because of the settlement.

"The accusations against Ms. Fouty alone have done enough to damage people's faith in the justice system," Morris wrote. "Allowing her name to remain on the ballot while there is ample time to remove it will only cause the same damage to our electoral system."

Election Chairman Robert Rupp said he wanted to send a message by accepting Morris' request and refusing the reasons Fouty submitted.

"We should say we're doing it for the obvious legal reasons instead of giving any acknowledgement to her insufficient reason," Rupp said.

Secretary of State Natalie Tennant presented a motion to reflect the county GOP's reason for removal. It was passed unanimously with a 4-0 vote.

The Kanawha Republican Executive Committee will meet at 11 a.m. Saturday at its Charleston headquarters to find a replacement, Morris said. It must name a person by Monday. The name will appear blank on the November ballot if a nominee cannot be found.

"We really want to find a qualified person but we know we have a short time frame...," Morris said. "It may be difficult to find, but if we can get the word out that this position is open again it will be very sufficient to the people of Kanawha County."

Morris said anyone who is interested or wants to nominate someone should contact him or attend the meeting. He thanked Fouty for her 26 years of service but said it's time to get fresh, new people into the races. There are three other Republican magistrate candidates running in the November election.

Earlier this month, Kanawha Circuit Judge Duke Bloom named Kristen Vieweg, Fouty's former assistant, as a temporary replacement.

Kanawha prosecutor Mark Plants has said he's since launched a criminal investigation into Fouty's alleged misconduct per the state Judicial Hearing Board's recommendation. The settlement agreement will go before the State Supreme Court, which can accept or reject it.

Under the agreement, Fouty could be publicly censured and required to pay $6,387 to cover the costs of the investigation, at $100 a month.

Reach Travis Crum at travis.crum@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5163.


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