Wolfe dismissed as superintendent at Western Regional Jail
HUNTINGTON - A Huntington native serving as superintendent of the Western Regional Jail in Barboursville has been replaced after he was unexpectedly delivered a termination notice Thursday.
Kim Wolfe was served termination papers Thursday by state officials. Wolfe previously served as Cabell County sheriff from 2001-08 and as Huntington’s mayor from 2009-12. He had been with the former Regional Jail and Correctional Facilities Authority, now known as the Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation, since May 2013 before taking over the superintendent position last year.
Wolfe said Friday he was an at-will employee, which means he can be terminated at any time without a reason. He said he found out via letter Thursday and said while he feels no bitterness about the termination, he does worry for the jail’s future.
“I don’t think it was personally directed at me. They said that it’s not personal, just a change of direction,” he said. “Overcrowding is an issue and understaffing is an issue. Until they take care of that, it’s going to be an issue for anyone that’s there.”
Lawrence Messina, spokesman for the state Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety, said Friday that Anthony Leonard had been named as the interim superintendent of the facility as of Thursday. He would not comment on what led to Wolfe’s departure.
“As we typically don’t comment on personnel matters, I do not believe there is further information at this time,” he said.
The number of inmates at the jail is currently about double its intended maximum capacity. The jail is also understaffed, as part of a statewide issue, although the state has been addressing that issue though salary increases and statewide job expos held earlier this year.
Wolfe did credit Jeff Sandy, Cabinet secretary of the DMAPS, and Gov. Jim Justice for giving pay raises to the correctional officers.
“I give credit when credit is due,” he said. “I’m not bitter.”
The change in staffing comes after Huntington attorney Tim Rosinsky told The Herald-Dispatch he plans to file a writ of habeas corpus to release hundreds of inmates awaiting trial due to what he said are unsafe and unsanitary conditions at the jail.
Wolfe said he had voiced his concerns about the overcrowding and understaffing earlier this year because the inmate population was averaging 825 to 850 inmates for a facility designed for about 575. The workforce was also down 30 officers, he said.
Rosinsky previously agreed with Wolfe’s statements, stating he didn’t believe the administration and staff had been maliciously creating an unsafe environment.
Wolfe said he thinks the solution would be to bring in a stable workforce and reduce the number of inmates.
Wolfe said that not sending guilty inmates to prison after their convictions was the direct cause of the overcrowding. He said the situation was a “Catch-22” - either the jails will be overcrowded, or the prisons will be.
Inmates at the jail are responsible for cleaning their own pods, including the showers and common area. They are provided cleaning supplies and an opportunity to clean daily, according to Herald-Dispatch archives.
The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources’ Office of Environmental Health Services within the Bureau for Public Health cited 39 violations at the jail in a March 6 inspection, including cleaning, physical facility repair, repair/operation of cell sink faucets due to lack of consistent hot water and lighting violations.
None of the violations required the inspector to return to the jail for re-inspection.
Toby Wagoner, public information officer for DHHR, said it has been reported to DHHR and to the inspectors that at times there are deliberate inmate actions that cause body fluids to be dispersed in the pods, or housing units. On these occurrences, facility staff assist in the cleanup of these incidents, he said.
Reporter Taylor Stuck contributed to this story. Follow reporter Courtney Hessler at Facebook.com/CHesslerHD and via Twitter @HesslerHD.