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Alleged injustices targeted

Alleged injustices targeted
January 12
08:00 2017

BY CASH MICHAELS 

FOR THE CHRONICLE

A grassroots group consisting of families deeply concerned with allegations of corruption in the Forsyth County Clerk of Court’s Office is planning to call wider attention to what they consider to be allegedly questionable practices of that office, and the public administrator who works with it, guardian Bryan C. Thompson.

At issue is a practice The Chronicle first and exclusively reported about in 2015 regarding the failure of the Forsyth Clerk of Court’s Office to properly file-stamp documents pertaining to elderly people being legally designated as “mentally incompetent,” making them wards of the state, and assigning attorney Thompson as their guardian to manage their properties and assets.

Doris Tucker of Washington, D.C., is the leader of the still-evolving group that is demanding answers. She is also the niece of the late Mary Ellen Brannon Thompson, whose story The Chronicle first reported on in October 2015 when a lawsuit was filed on her estate’s behalf against attorney Thompson (no relation) and the Forsyth Clerk’s Office, among others, alleging that a $1.4 million estate belonging to the retired African-American nurse had been allegedly squandered when that attorney was illegally appointed as her estate guardian.

According to its website, “The Clerk’s Office provides administrative support for the judicial operation of the Forsyth County Courts” and that administrative support must comport with state statute, and longstanding rules that codify legal procedure in doing the public’s business.

File-stamping or “entering” orders from a judge or court officer, complete with name, date and time for the court record, is part of that legal procedure.

The lawsuit alleged that in May 2007, the guardian and the Clerk’s Office colluded to have himself assigned to Ms. Thompson before she had been legally designated as mentally incompetent; that there was no medical substantiation for the designation to begin with; and that actions by the guardian per her estate were taken after her death and without legal authority – all of which should not have legally happened.

In addition, in February 2014, the N.C. Court of Appeals ruled that any orders issued from the Forsyth Clerk of Court’s Office that were not properly file-stamped, as required by state statute, were legally “invalid.”

The attorney representing the estate, Reginald Alston, called it a “pattern and practice,” further alleging that this was one of several cases actions were taken without proper legal designation.

A Forsyth County judge would later dismiss the lawsuit, siding with attorney Thompson’s insistence that he did nothing wrong, was unaware of the Clerk Office’s improper procedure, and as guardian, he only spent money on behalf of Ms. Thompson’s care. But troubling questions remained even after ruling.

Ms. Tucker, who insists that her aunt’s estate was squandered to the point where even the proper taxes weren’t paid, told The Chronicle that she, and the family members of other people improperly designated as mentally incompetent by the Clerk’s Office, and assigned to guardian Bryan Thompson, are alarmed that there seems to be no oversight of the practices of that office.

“I realize that my aunt was not the only victim of this, and seems like it’s almost a business for them,” Ms. Tucker told The Chronicle by phone Sunday evening from Washington, “and they don’t seem to be trying to rectify any of this according to the laws that govern the state.”

“I don’t understand how they are continuing to do the same thing, and nobody’s correcting them,” Tucker added.

Susan Frye, the elected Forsyth County Clerk, has said, “In 2007, it was standard practice of the Forsyth County Clerk of Superior Court not to file stamp Orders that had been prepared and executed by representatives of the [Forsyth] Clerk of Superior Court …,” going on to say that this was the ”understanding of instructions” [assistant clerks] had from “the Administrative Office of the Court (AOC).”

The Chronicle queried the AOC about Frye’s claim, but could never get a clear confirmation. Ironically, in legal papers pertaining to the Mary Thompson case, Frye originally claimed that the failure to properly file stamp the orders in her case was not “standard practice,” but rather “an inadvertent error.”

Ms. Tucker further alleges that key documents are even now missing in her aunt’s case, and it is on appeal after the original suit was dismissed. She also is angered at how Ms. Thompson was allegedly isolated in hospice prior to her death.

“When you don’t have interaction, you basically don’t have anything to live for,” Ms. Tucker, who is also a nurse, said of how her aunt was allegedly treated.

Tucker says she’s written the N.C. State Bar Association with a complaint about attorney Thompson’s alleged actions regarding her aunt, but thus far has received no response.

And with Clerk of Court Susan Frye being an elected official, who is up for re-election in 2018, Tucker says that’s one of the main reasons why families who have had similar experiences with Frye’s office have to come together.

“We need to bring this to the public attention because she’s a representative of the people not working for the people, but working against us,” Ms. Tucker says.

She added that a meeting of families is being planned to occur within the next two weeks, most likely in Winston-Salem. Anyone who has had a similar experience with the Forsyth Clerk of Court Office is urged to contact The Chronicle at news@nullwschronicle.com.

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Cash Michaels

Cash Michaels

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