09/16/04 — Braswell defends hiring

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Braswell defends hiring

By Jack Stephens
Published in News on September 16, 2004 1:59 PM

Superior Court Judge Jerry Braswell disputes the claim of Clerk of Court Marshall Minchew that he did not follow the law in his appointment of the newest Wayne County magistrate.

Braswell said Wednesday night that he chose the newest magistrate, Patricia D. Williams, from 10 applications submitted by the clerk's office. The judge admitted that Minchew's cover letter, included in the folder with the applications, had the names of only nine nominees.

Minchew had said Braswell had requested 10 candidates.

"It's my contention that the clerk was complying with the law," Braswell said, "and was providing me with the number of applications I requested."

But "to remove the cloud over the selection process," the judge said he contacted the state Attorney General's Office to settle the matter. He said he expected to receive a written opinion on the process.

"I think my decision was proper," Braswell said. "I'll abide by what decision" the office makes. ƒ "I think the magistrates hold an important position that should not be played with."

Minchew said Tuesday that his secretary, Karrie Riggs Minchew, who is married to the clerk's son, may have put Ms. Williams' application in the folder by mistake. Mrs. Minchew says she did not.

Braswell said he was surprised to read that Minchew said the application was a mistake, because the clerk had said she was qualified.

"There's no question in my mind about her qualifications," the judge said.

Ms. Williams had worked in the state and federal correction system and the state probation service.

"If his office made an error, then he's responsible for the conduct of his people," said Braswell, who has been holding court in New Hanover County.

"I assumed he was complying with the law, and that's a reasonable assumption," Braswell said. "If I had asked for 10 and received 12 or 15, then it would have been an error. But I asked for 10 and got 10. There was no reason to question it. The number I got was the number I requested."

Ms. Williams was appointed to replace Gilbert Owens, who resigned June 30 with six months left in his two-year term.