06/18/04 — Braswell, Minchew continue feud at county courthouse

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Braswell, Minchew continue feud at county courthouse

By Jack Stephens
Published in News on June 18, 2004 1:58 PM

Superior Court Judge Jerry Braswell has asked the state's attorney general and auditor to investigate five allegations against Wayne County Clerk of Court Marshall Minchew.

The clerk called at least one allegation "an out-and-out lie."

Braswell, of Goldsboro, gave copies of his letters to the two state officials and to news reporters on Thursday. He was attending a judges' conference in Wilmington and could not be reached for further comment.

The allegations are the latest in a simmering feud that started between the men in December 2002 during the appointment of new magistrates.

In the most recent complaint, Braswell contends that Minchew allowed staff members to leave work as early as 10:30 a.m. on Fridays and then directed staffers to destroy any records or notes that would identify the days and hours of unauthorized leave.

Minchew, 57, responded today that he was giving everyone in his office time off because many came to work early and then left after 5 p.m. He said some staffers have not received the time off but they will. He said he was thanking them for their extra efforts.

"I can't compensate them with money," he said, "but I thought this was a nice gesture to repay them for the extra time they spend here."

Minchew called the allegation that he asked deputy and assistant clerks to destroy time sheets an out-and-out lie.

"I told them that they did not have to write their time down," he said. "But they also miss breaks" during the day.

Minchew said he felt justified in giving the time off. "Whatever the price is for doing that, I'll have to pay. I haven't covered anything up.

"I can't hide anything from 35 women," he added, referring to the clerks in his office.

Braswell, who was elected to an eight-year term as the county's senior resident judge, also alleges that Minchew told his staff that he was attending a judicial seminar for two days in May and June at the Institute of Government and then went elsewhere on vacation.

Minchew, who is also an elected official, said he told the District Attorney's Office of his plans. He also said he and Braswell both have unlimited vacation time and don't have to answer to their employees. The clerk said he also has sick leave and does not "steal time from the state."

Braswell's fourth allegation concerned Minchew's complaint to a lawyer that when she filed papers just before 5 p.m., his office clerks could not leave early.

Minchew responded by saying several deputy clerks had to pick up small children from a nursery, and if they had to stay after 5 p.m., it would "push" them to get the children on time.

The judge also alleged that Minchew had a clerk to work on a state computer for a month to work on Minchew's election campaign.

Minchew, serving a second four-year term, said he had no opposition in his last campaign. In his first campaign, he was a magistrate opposing the incumbent clerk, Hardy Sullivan.

"Braswell has made allegations against me previously," Minchew said. "Now he is making more attempts to get something on me. ƒ It's disgusting that a man of his character would make so many allegations in an attempt to destroy me."

Minchew claims that Braswell appointed unqualified magistrates in 2002, including one with a criminal history and another in a bankruptcy proceeding.

"We are both nearing retirement," the clerk said. "It would be nice if we could leave with some respect. ƒ He who lives in glass houses shouldn't throw stones."

Braswell, however, has defended his appointment of magistrates and said he has followed the state statutory requirements in making those appointments.