Former Mingo judge Michael Thornsbury, 3 other public employees - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

Former Mingo judge Michael Thornsbury, 3 other public employees stripped of pensions for job-related felony convictions

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Former Mingo County judge Michael Thornsbury has been stripped of his nearly $95,000 a year pension, as have three other public employees convicted of wrongdoing.

West Virginia's Consolidated Public Retirement Board voted Wednesday, July 2, to return Thornsbury's contributions to him, with interest, and cancel the pension credits he'd accrued in nearly 17 years of public service.

Thornsbury was sentenced to 50 months in prison after pleading guilty in federal court to conspiring to violate the civil rights of a defendant in order to protect one of his political cronies. He has appealed that sentence.

CPRB, meanwhile, also revoked the pensions of former Barbour County Sheriff John Hawkins; former Shinnston Police Officer Charles Roscoe Henning and former Hampshire County substitute teacher Sherry L. Lupton.

Hawkins was sentenced in June to one year and one day in federal prison after pleading guilty to mail fraud, telling the court he staged an auto accident, then falsified reports for the insurance money.

Henning was found guilty of four felony counts of obtaining a controlled subs by misrepresentation, fraud, forgery, deception or subterfuge, while Lupton used a Hampshire County Schools purchasing card to buy some $10,000 in gift cards that she kept for her own use.

CPRB Executive Director Jeff Fleck said the state's Less Than Honorable Service statute requires the board to terminate the pensions of public employees "found guilty of a felony pertaining to their employment." When that statute is invoked, the board returns the employees' contributions to the retirement plan, with interest.

"They get a small portion of (their pension) back in a lump sum," he said.

He said LTHS pension terminations are common.

"It's standard, the statute has been in effect since the retirement board has been in existence," he said. "It's something that typically comes up at every one of our board meetings."

He said Thornsbury's pension would have been 75 percent of the salary paid to the sitting judge — currently, that would be just shy of $95,000 a year. How much the others lost "depends on how long they were in our system, how long they'd worked, their salary."