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2 West Virginia county commissioners removed after arrests for skipping public meetings

A three-judge panel ordered Wednesday that two county commissioners in West Virginia’s Eastern Panhandle be removed from office over a month after they were arrested for purposefully jilting their duties by skipping public meetings.

Circuit Court Judges Joseph K. Reeder of Putnam County, Jason A. Wharton of Wirt and Wood Counties and Perri Jo DeChristopher of Monongalia County wrote in a written decision that Jefferson County Commissioners Jennifer Krouse and Tricia Jackson “engaged in a pattern of conducted that amounted to the deliberate, willful and intentional refusal to perform their duties.”

Krouse and Jackson — who is also a Republican candidate for state auditor — were arrested in March and arraigned in Jefferson County Magistrate Court on 42 misdemeanor charges ranging from failure to perform official duties to conspiracy to commit a crime against the state. The petition to remove the two women from office was filed in November by the Jefferson County prosecutor’s office, and the three-judge panel heard the case in late March.

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Neither Krouse or Jackson responded to emails from The Associated Press requesting comment.

In a public Facebook post, Jackson said she is working with an attorney to appeal the decision and that she is still running for state auditor.

“An election has been overturned and the will of the people has been subverted,” Jackson wrote. “I have no intention of surrendering and plan to challenge this unjust decision every step of the way.”

The matter stems from seven missed meetings in late 2023, which State Police asserted in court documents related to the criminal case that Krouse and Jackson skipped to protest candidates selected to replace a commissioner who resigned. They felt the candidates were not “actual conservatives,” among other grievances, according to a criminal complaint.

The complaint asserted that between Sept. 21 and Nov. 16, 2023, Krouse and Jackson’s absences prevented the commission from conducting regular business, leaving it unable to fill 911 dispatch positions, approve a $150,000 grant for victim advocates in the prosecuting attorney’s office and a $50,000 grant for court house renovations.

The county lost out on the court house improvement grant because the commission needs to approve expenses over $5,000.

Both Jackson and Krouse continued to receive benefits and paychecks despite the missed meetings. They began returning after a Jefferson County Circuit Court order.

Krouse took office in January 2023, and Jackson in 2021.

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