HARRISVILLE - A Ritchie County attorney running for circuit court judge will face a disciplinary board hearing this week regarding a pair of ethics complaints.
Ira Haught, an attorney in Harrisville, is the subject of two ethics complaints from 2010 filed with the Lawyer Disciplinary Board. Haught is accused of converting money for his own use and attempting to deceive investigators about his clients in another.
Haught filed a response in April through his attorney, Ginny Conley. In the response, Haught admits to many of the allegations, but denies he converted funds for his personal use or lied to the disciplinary council to avoid detection.
A hearing is scheduled Friday in Charleston at the office of disciplinary counsel.
Gerald Heister filed a complaint against Haught in May 2010 alleging the Harrisville attorney and his client used money illegally taken from the National Rendezvous and Living History Foundation to pay legal fees. The disputed funds should have been kept separate from the lawyer's property, Heister said.
Heister's complaint accuses Haught of depositing the money into his account before paying it back.
In his complaint, Heister provided copies of a check made payable to Linda Blizard and Haught for $11,402.50. The check was cashed in 2008 with Haught's signature.
Haught alleges he endorsed the check and gave it to Blizard to cash. Haught also alleges after Blizard cashed the check the money was stored in his office safe. And it was returned when the matter was settled.
The council asked Haught to provide any receipts showing what Blizard paid him. Haught stated he could find no receipts "for the year 2008" to show any amounts paid by Blizard.
Haught returned the money to Blizard, via a check from his client trust account.
"In both his verified response to this complaint and his subsequent sworn statement to Disciplinary Council, Respondent lied to Disciplinary Council in an effort to avoid detection of his conversion of funds in violation of Rule 8.1 (a) of the Rules of Professional Conduct," the statement of charges reads.
The second count alleges Haught prepared a deed for Jack and Wanda Wright, but omitted oil, gas and mineral rights. The Wrights stated they paid Haught more than $14,000.
Haught responded to the Wrights' complaint, stating said his involvement in the case began when he was contacted by a pre-paid legal service used by the seller, L.L. Tonkin, who later paid him $600. Haught said he considered Tonkin, not the Wrights, to be his client, and because Tonkin didn't sign a corrected deed, the oil, gas and mineral rights were not to included.
Haught sent a letter to the disciplinary council stating he did not have any written representation contracts for any the parties in question.
According to the board's filings, Haught's files show the attorney engaged in correspondence with Tonkin and the Wright regarding the transaction.
The investigative panel stated it found probable cause to formally charge Haught with violations of the rules of professional conduct in March.
"...probable cause exists to formally charge you with a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct," the statement of charges of read.
Messages left for Haught were not returned.
In the response, Conley claims the statement of charges fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted and also alleges the allegations fall outside the statute of limitations that are applicable to the charges.
Haught, who was admitted to the bar in 1983, is the Republican nominee for judge in the Third Judicial Circuit that includes Ritchie, Doddridge and Pleasants counties. He is running against Democrat Tim Sweeney of Pleasants County to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Judge Robert Holland, 57, in September 2010. Sweeney was appointed to the fill the vacancy in December 2010.