The facts involving some criminal cases not prosecuted by Fairmont’s former City Attorney and an investigation to identify city staff who allegedly knew about those cases were made public at the Fairmont City Council meeting Monday. Mayor Debbie Foster asked for and received permission from the council to waive attorney/client privilege and read a letter from County Attorney Terry Viesselman, who assumed the city’s prosecutorial duties, and Fairmont Police Chief Mike Hunter. The mayor read “At the end of the process, the (County Attorney’s) office received a total of 136 reports for review that represented 153 prosecution decisions,” the letter stated. “Of those, 50 reports representing 56 prosecution decisions were determined to be barred by the statute of limitations by the time the office received the reports for review.
“Of those 56 decisions, the office determined that 14 were chargeable, based upon the facts in the report, and at least 12 needed further investigation by law enforcement before a prosecution could effectively be made. Of the 14 chargeable, four were domestic assault cases. Of the 12 that needed further investigation, five were domestic assault cases.”
Foster thanked Viesselman and Hunter for their time, diligence and efforts in reviewing the cases. She also offered an apology. “I am very sorry to everyone that was involved in the 12 cases that needed further investigation before a prosecution decision was made. Each of the 12 cases did not receive their due process,” she said. “I am truly sorry to everyone that was directly involved in the 14 chargeable cases that did not receive due process due to the statute of limitations.
“There is nothing that can be done to erase or change the past. There are changes already taking place to improve the now and the future.”
Foster also read a report from Michelle Soldo of Soldo Consulting who conducted an investigation into city staff’s awareness of the criminal cases that had expired under the statute of limitations. The council voted to hire Soldo on Sept. 30 at a rate of $155 per hour to determine who, if anyone, had knowledge of the expired cases from January 2012 through May 2019.
“It was not established that city officials and/or city staff outside of the city prosecutor knew or should have known that the city did not prosecute or dismiss criminal cases prior to the applicable statute of limitations,” the report stated.