Randy Yohe Published

Two Top W.Va. Corrections Officials Fired, Missing Documents Found

Three men in blue suits
Gov. Jim Justice with Homeland Security Secretary Sorsaia and Corrections Commissioner Mitchell.
Courtesy of the WV Governor's Office

The positions held by Brad Douglas, the former interim corrections commissioner and recent executive officer for the jails system, and Phil Sword, chief counsel for the homeland security agency have been terminated, according to Brian Abraham, Gov. Jim Justice’s Chief of Staff.

Abraham also said the emails, grievances and other documents requested in a class-action lawsuit against the state that were thought to be purged, have been recovered. He says all the information has been located in electronic and paper form at the Southern Regional Jail (SRJ) and is available to be turned over to the court.

The Wednesday firings follow a Justice media briefing where the governor said any parties guilty of intentionally destroying evidence should be terminated or jailed. 

“When people are directed to not destroy something, or to supply something, and then they just don’t,” Justice said. “I think that it will be a very long and difficult day for those folk.”

U.S. Magistrate Judge Omar J. Aboulhosn ruled Monday that state employees intentionally destroyed emails and documents relating to a lawsuit alleging inhumane conditions at the Southern Regional Jail in Raleigh County.

In the briefing, Justice referred questions about the emails to his Homeland Security Secretary Mark Sorsaia, who said destroying the emails was not intentional. He said there were administrative failures in preserving that evidence and some people were disciplined.

In producing discovery evidence regarding the civil suit, the state was ordered to put a legal hold on the emails and documents that were later deleted. Sorsaia blamed an automatic email deletion policy regarding outgoing state employees. Abraham now says the documents deleted elsewhere have always been in possession of Corrections personnel at the SRJ.

Aboulhosn recommended a default judgment, holding the state liable for the charges in the lawsuit. Aboulhosn’s judgment will now go before District Judge Frank W. Volk to be confirmed. The defendants in the case have 14 days to object to the judgment and “modify or set aside any portion of the Order found clearly to be erroneous or contrary to law.” 

WVPB knows of no action taken yet in light of the new discovery findings. 

The judge also ordered the court clerk to send a copy of the order to the United States Attorney to consider an investigation of the West Virginia Department of Corrections and Rehabilitations.