Berkeley County assessor resigns

Kilmer says she unknowingly violated state Ethics Act when hiring summer and full-time employees

December 01, 2011|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD |
  • Patricia "Patsy" Kilmer
File photo

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Berkeley County Assessor Patricia A. "Patsy" Kilmer resigned Wednesday, saying she unknowingly violated the state's Ethics Act through some of her personnel decisions including how she hired employees' children for summer work.

Kilmer's resignation was accepted Thursday by the Berkeley County Council, which subsequently voted to advertise the position for two weeks with the goal of appointing a new assessor by the end of the year.

Tamera "Tammy" Edgar, the county's commercial appraiser, was appointed to lead the assessor's office until the vacancy is filled.

"I would rather have Patsy be here," said Edgar, who said she and other staff were shocked by the circumstances that apparently led to Kilmer's resignation. "We have to do the best job we can to honor Patsy."

Kilmer, 65, who has held the office since 2009, told council President William L. Stubblefield in a resignation letter Wednesday that she felt embarrassed by being linked to such wrongdoing, but insisted she never used her office for private gain or purposely aided in the private gain of anyone else.

"I am convinced that I have made mistakes in the hiring of a number of summer employees and two full-time employees in my office," Kilmer wrote in her letter.

"I am sorry that this has happened. You know me well enough, I think, to know that I would not do anything wrong, if I knew it was the wrong thing to do. I especially feel sad that I have brought a cloud over the fine people who work for me and Berkeley County Government."

West Virginia Ethics Commission Executive Director Theresa M. Kirk said Thursday she could not confirm or deny if a complaint had been filed against Kilmer.

Kilmer, however, said in her resignation letter that she was accused of hiring family members without following West Virginia Ethics Commission standards established to prohibit nepotism.

Kilmer did not name the complainant, but indicated in her letter that she had employed the person's nephew for summer work at the complainant's request.

Kirk said Thursday that state Legislative Rule 158, Series 6 concerning the use of a public office for "private gain" does not prohibit elected officials from hiring relatives, but prescribes how the hiring process itself should be conducted so that qualified candidates for a job are fairly considered and the appearance of nepotism is avoided.

When a family member or cohabitating sexual partner has applied for the job, the public official or employee, to the extent possible, should stay out of the selection process altogether, according to the rule.

A public official should at least have an independent third party take part in the selection process and avoid using a subordinate as the independent person when relatives have applied for a job, according to the rule.

"If a public official or public employee must share in the decision, he or she should exercise his or her best objective judgment in making the selection, and be prepared to justify his or her selection," the rule states.

"I have followed a pattern, which has been in place for many years, of trying to help young people who needed a job for the summer," Kilmer wrote of her hiring practices.

"I never hired them to jobs which I created for them. They performed work, which needed to be done and that there was a need to have additional people do.

"I now realize the way I did this was wrong and that just because others have done it in the past does not make it appropriate," Kilmer wrote.

Kilmer denied in her letter an apparent allegation that she supervised her mother, who works in the assessor's office.

Kilmer wrote that her mother was hired by former County Assessor Evelyn Fink and Kilmer indicated she did not supervise her mother's work.

Kilmer wrote she wasn't aware of the ethics rule until receiving a letter from Kirk on Nov. 21, notifying her of an investigation and a number of allegations.

Stubblefield said Kilmer was one of the most conscientious, compassionate, thorough and knowledgeable elected officials he had ever worked with.

"She was professional in every regard," Stubblefield said. "Ms. Kilmer served the county exceptionally well and she's going to be missed."

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