Franklin court clerk defends her actions in bid to keep her job
Franklin County Clerk of Superior Court Patricia Burnette Chastain became emotional Tuesday as she tried to explain herself and fend off an attempt to remove her from office.Posted — Updated
She showed up unannounced last December at the home of a Louisburg couple involved in a dispute with one of their neighbors to say that she was mediating the dispute, even though the couple already had obtained a restraining order from a local judge against their neighbor.
"You're not saying what the judge said," Adam Diaz told Chastain, according to video from a body-worn camera of a deputy called to the scene.
"I'm telling you the law," Chastain replied, telling Diaz and his wife that they were abusing the county 911 system to report their neighbor was violating the restraining order and threatening to take legal action against them.
Jeffrey Thompson, an attorney for the Diazes, filed a formal complaint against Chastain seeking her removal.
"In no way, shape or form is that her job," Thompson told WRAL.
"In the heat of the moment – I am the Franklin County clerk of court, my jurisdiction is Franklin County – I didn't say it right," she said of her encounter with the Diazes. "I used the wrong words.
"I certainly, when I saw it on television, apologized to Mr. Thompson," she added. "I thought I was helping."
"I interact a lot with the public just in a general way, not in an official way. But if I could use my title to help people, that's what I try to do," she said. "I have compassion for the people who are coming here [to the courthouse] and calling here because, other than adoption, everybody that comes here is in crisis."
Chastain also has been accused of giving gift certificates to jurors and inviting a political candidate to campaign to a jury pool.
Her attorney, Roger Smith, has argued that the mistakes she made don't rise to the level of willful misconduct, which is the standard for a public official to be removed.
Testimony in the hearing will continue Wednesday morning.
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