Newfane courthouse

Side judges in Windham County work out of the Newfane Courthouse, which houses Windham Superior Court Civil Division.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.  

BRATTLEBORO — The Vermont State Police has confirmed a criminal investigation into former Windham County Assistant Judge Patricia Duff.

“I can confirm that the Vermont State Police does have an active investigation, but beyond that, VSP is unable to provide further information at this time, as the investigation is active and ongoing,” wrote Adam Silverman, spokesman for the Vermont State Police, in a Thursday morning email to the Reformer.

According to sources familiar with the investigation, Duff is being investigated for misappropriation of public funds, which was confirmed by Joyce McKeeman, an assistant judge in Orange County who is the president of the Vermont Association of County Judges.

“My understanding is that Patricia Duff engaged in some financial impropriety at the very least, but I don’t know all the details about it,” she said. “I do know that it was going to be referred for investigation.”

She also said that all of Vermont’s assistant judges have to be held to the very highest ethical standards, and that has to do both in their roles as judges for the Vermont judiciary, but also in their roles as county executives.

The Reformer reached out to Duff, but has yet to receive a response.

Duff resigned the position she has held for 16 years in late July.

Duff, after the urging of multiple people, according to McKeeman, contacted the secretary of state’s Office Thursday afternoon to have her name removed from the November ballot.

She had until Friday at 5 p.m. to have her name removed.

Support our journalism. Subscribe today. →

The Windham County Democratic Committee will caucus and recommend a name to be put on the ballot for November.

Windham County Sheriff Mark Anderson wrote in an email to the Reformer that he was aware of the investigation into Duff.

Anderson referred all questions to the Vermont State Police and the Windham County State’s Attorney, as his office is not involved in conducting the investigation.

“The Sheriff’s Office continues to work with Assistant Judge Barnett to ensure the continuity of the county’s operations,” wrote Anderson.

The State’s Attorney’s Office had no comment at this time.

Gov. Phil Scott is in the process of considering people to fill the position until the November election. Along with Rep. Carolyn Partridge, Scott is considering Windham County Clerk Millie Berry and Windham County NAACP President Steffen Gillom to finish out Duff’s term.

Vermont has 28 elected assistant judges, also known as side judges, two for each county who serve four year terms. In Windham County, they work out of the Newfane Courthouse.

They are responsible for the administration of the county budget and all other county affairs. They also serve in the judiciary as finders of fact in civil and family court alongside presiding superior court judges, hence the term “side judges.”

It is not the first time Windham County side judges have run into trouble. In 2016, former Windham County Side Judge Paul Kane resigned while he was under investigation for his handling of an elderly Bellows Falls woman’s estate.

Bob Audette can be contacted at raudette@reformer.com.