Police Chief and Lt. Resign to Avoid Charges; City Council Seeks Answers

By Kevin Courtney | July 09, 2013

The Clarksburg Chief of Police and one of his lieutenants have resigned in the face of pending federal criminal charges — and have been barred from ever working in law enforcement again.

Meanwhile, members of Clarksburg City Council in attendance expressed confusion —  and a little anger — as to why they weren't notified of the ongoing investigation, particularly since it involved one of their own.

U.S. Attorney William J. Ihlenfeld II made the announcement during a 1 p.m. press conference today in the Derek W. Hotsinpiller Federal Building, Clarksburg. Also present and fielding questions was John Hambrick, Senior Supervisor/Resident Agent for the FBI's Northern West Virginia District.

“Former Chief Marshall Goff and former Lieutenant Tim Smith have quit the Clarksburg Police Department in order to avoid being charged with civil rights violations — and being charged with lying and making false statements to federal agents.”

Ihlenfeld explained that the actions of Goff and Smith occurred subsequent to a domestic incident that took place locally in April of this year, and to which members of the Clarksburg Police Department had responded.

“Goff and Smith became involved in the response to this domestic,” said the U.S. Attorney. “And the actions they took in responding to that domestic led to a separate investigation — one that was led by the FBI and the West Virginia State Police Bureau of Investigations.

Ihlenfeld stressed that the two investigations were separate from one another: One involving the domestic battery involving a city councilperson; the other involving the response by Goff and Smith to the domestic incident.

Ihlenfeld said that the resignations of both Goff and Smith are effective immediately, and their avoidance of Federal criminal charges is conditional.

“Both men are barred from ever seeking or obtaining employment as a law enforcement officer,” he said. “Both men have also agreed to cooperative — and truthful —  in the ongoing investigation of the response to this matter.”

For City Council members who seemed to have learned about today's announcement only through happenstance, the investigation and subsequent resignations came as a surprise.

“We weren't even informed of this meeting today,” said Council Member Gary Bowden. “How did a lot of this spread in general public, and yet no one in City Hall seemed to have been advised of anything official going on?”

“We have known nothing,” Council Member Margaret Bailey said.

“We met this morning with the City Manager and expressed our concerns about everything we were hearing —  as rumors,” said Mayor Cathy Goings. “We were trying to figure out what was the truth and what was fictitious. In that process was when we found out about this meeting.”

“We felt that as a unit we could all band together and come down here on behalf of the city of Clarksburg,” Goings said.

“When there's something like this going on, there's certainly an amount of speculation that occurs among the general public,”  Bowden added. “As members of City Council, we want be people to respect and trust their city government.”

“We're very much interested in finding out where this leads — and very concerned that it has an impact on our city,” Bowden continued. “We're going to do everything we can to learn just what happened, find out the facts and hopefully, educate and inform the citizenry that we've done all we can to make sure we've handled things the way we should as members of the Clarksburg City Council.”

Ihlenfeld noted that while the FBI and State Police are two of his office's most important partners in its efforts to fight public corruption, he said its most important partner is the public.

“It's the tips we receive; the emails; the phone calls,” Ihelenfeld said. “It's the hundreds of pieces of information we've received over the past year or so from the public.”

The U.S. Attorney credited that same public input for Tuesday's announcement.

“We appreciate that they came forward and provided us with information that led us to looking into the matter,” he said.

“One of the most important things I can do as United States Attorney is to make sure that we keep our public officials honest,” Ihlenfeld said. “That might be a legislator; that might be a city council member; that might  be a school board member.”

“Or,” Ihlenfeld continued. “that might be a police officer.”

Ihlenfeld reminded those at the press conference that Tuesday's announcement represented a relatively isolated case.

“Most of the public officials that we have in Harrison County, in North Central West Virginia and in the Northern District of West Virginia are very honest, very hardworking people —  and they're doing it for the right reasons,” Ihlenfeld said.

“Unfortunately,” he continued. “there is always a handful of folks don't do it for the right reason. There is a long history of public corruption in our state, and we have to stay on top of that to make sure that when it does occur, those public officials are held accountable — and that we're prepared to do so.”

“It's our job to be aggressive in investigating —  and sometimes prosecuting —  public officials when they abuse the trust of the public,” he said.

To help fulfill that mission, Ihlenfeld said the Public Corruption Task Force was formed in April of last year. Included in the implementation of the new task force was a Public Corruption hotline and an email address.

Ihlenfeld said he made the Public Corruption Task Force his “number-one criminal priority,” restructuring his office in order to allocate some of his best people to the Task Force.

“We have received hundreds upon hundreds of tips from the public in the northern district for just this reason,” he said. “And that's to make sure that we hold our public officials accountable.”

“Sometimes there's a buzz on the street that we get a little bit of information about but we're not able to act upon,” Ihlenfeld said. “And sometimes we receive information that is actionable — and that's what happened in this case.”

Ihenfeld said the Task Force utilizes a variety of resources when conducting investigations.

“Sometimes we use sophisticated tools; sometimes we use electronic surveillance; sometimes we use confidential sources,” the U.S. Attorney said.  “We use every tool we have at our disposal to investigate these types of cases.”

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