Local News

Jury Selection Begins for Minister Accused of...

Posted February 24, 1997 12:00 a.m. EST

— Jury selection began Monday in the civil trial of Ed Privette, a Cary minister accused of sexually harassing three church workers.

The lawsuit has divided members of the congregation. Some, including Carol Barham, staunchly defend Privette. They say he is an affectionate person who is being persecuted by those who want to take over the church.

Lawyers argued pretrial motions in the case on Monday. Plaintiffs are seeking a minimum of $10,000 in monetary damages from Privette and are asking that he be ousted as senior minister.

Privette was pastor of White Plains United Methodist Church last February when three women, Tracey Newman, Kathy Kahall and Debbie Smith filed a lawsuit alleging that Privette inappropriately touched them. They say he often pulled them close, slapped them on the buttocks, or kissed them on the neck. One of the women, Gail Lawson, says she was fired as a church employee for complaining about the overtures.

Lawson told WRAL-TV5 News last year that Privette provided the wrong kind of leadership in her office.

"I was hugged by the pastor and I was uncomfortable," she said. "I put a stop to it by pulling away and showing I did not want to be hugged".

Joyce Davis, attorney for the plaintiffs, says she intends to show that Privette should not be allowed to continue in his position.

Privette, who denies the allegations, was suspended with pay for two months and ordered to receive therapy. He has filed a countersuit alleging that his reputation has been damaged, and has since returned to duties at the church.

This past Sunday, he was in the pulpit preaching about healing.