Local News

Former Employees At Wake Clerk Of Court's Office Blame Official For Problems

Posted November 24, 2003 6:15 a.m. EST

— Roughly one-third of the people who worked in the Wake County Clerk's Office one year ago are no longer there. Many of those gone blame a hostile working environment.

Jan Pueschel is the first woman and first Republican to be elected Superior Court clerk in Wake County, but the former prison warden is now known less for making history than making enemies in the office she runs. WRAL has obtained letters detailing complaints from Pueschel's former employees. WRAL has also spoken to more than a dozen of them, and they all tell a similar story.

"She intends to humiliate everyone there. She tries to belittle you," former employee Rose Massengill said.

"She curses at you. She screams," former employee Nelly Nelson said.

Pueschel has denied the former employees' allegations, but there is a high rate of turnover at the office. Since Pueschel was elected one year ago, 38 people have quit or been fired.

When asked if she was surprised about what former employees had said about her, Pueschel responded by saying, "I can't imagine why anyone would quit because they're afraid of me."

Pueschel said the former employees are afraid of change. She requires employees to clock in and out, and she has streamlined the leave policy.

"Everyone is treated alike in the clerk's office, so if the definition of a tight ship is that everyone has all the same rules, yes, we do," she said.

The clerk works for the state, and under state law, she can fire and hire at will.

"I'm there. I'm a team player and when she threw me out like this, I was like, 'No, it can't happen like this,'" Nelson said.

Pueschel fired Nelson on Oct. 30 for allegedly taking too much sick time with her children. Nelson's time sheet shows she had the time coming.

Pueschel fired Massengill on April 9 after she returned to work with a doctor's note following two sick days.

"She told me she couldn't depend on me. That basically, she didn't need me any longer," Massengill said. "I didn't know how to react. I was totally shocked."

"There's not been anyone who I have terminated who didn't know the reason they were terminated," Pueschel said.

"I want every voter in the county to know. I want everyone to know what kind of conditions they're working under," Massengill said.

Pueschel said her office is better organized than it ever was and has collected more money than under any previous administration. In order to remove a clerk, someone must make a formal petition to the Chief District Court judge and the Chief Superior Court judge would hold a hearing. No such petitions have been filed.