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Records check: Candidates in court


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This year, the Observer checked publicly available civil and criminal court records and tax records on all candidates in some of the most contested elections across the region, including the Burke County school board race. Here's what we found:

Ray Martinat Jr.

Martinat, the school board's chairman, has been a defendant in more than 40 civil lawsuits in about the past 20 years. Most of them fell in a roughly five-year span in the late 1980s and early 1990s and revolved around business issues and judgments for money owed.Because local courthouses do not store case files dating back more than 10 to 15 years, generally, further details of those suits were not readily available.

At the time, Martinat said, he had been an officer and minority owner in a group that owned 19 fast-food restaurants across North Carolina.

Even after he sold his interest in the business, he said, his name remained on some documents, and the owners continued to send out checks using his facsimile stamp.

According to Martinat, the checks were not paid, and he was named in the lawsuits and in more than 20 judgments for money, according to court records.

During this time he was also convicted on about 25 related misdemeanor worthless check charges, for which he was sentenced to probation.

He blames the financial problems on a former business partner and said he was vindicated when he won a large judgment for money against the man.

However, he said, he was unable to recoup those funds because the man moved to Florida and filed for bankruptcy. "I have never written a personal bad check in my life," he noted.

In 2002, Martinat was also sued by local flag case maker SpartaCraft, where he worked from 1998 until resigning in February 2002.

Martinat was accused of mismanagement and of using company money, labor and supplies for personal uses and purchases, including televisions, audio-visual equipment, a professional coffee machine, golf balls, family travel and home remodeling.

In addition, Martinat and a co-defendant were accused of conspiring to set up a competing business using SpartaCraft time, resources and information.

The matter never went to court, and the parties reached a confidential out-of-court settlement.

Martinat denied the allegations in a written response to the complaint and again last week, noting that the court system allows people to sue regardless of whether they have proper reason to. The SpartaCraft suit, he said, contained "wild allegations" and stemmed from sour grapes.

Martinat did go to work for another flag case maker, but said he took that job because it was a better opportunity.

The lawsuits and charges, he said, do not reflect on his ability to be a public official. If anything, he said, the experiences have likely made him stronger in his abilities to understand and deal with trials and tribulations, and have imparted "a lot of training in dealing with business and legal situations that other people don't have."

"I think you have to look at all the facts surrounding it and the conclusion should be, especially with (the fast food issue) and SpartaCraft, I was wronged," he said. "But through my own character, I was successful after that. I didn't file bankruptcy, I didn't fold, I was strengthened because of it."

Rob Hairfield

Hairfield has been convicted of driving while impaired twice in the past 20 years, in 1995 and in 2000. On both occasions, his license was revoked, and he was sentenced to probation.

He calls the incidents isolated cases of misjudgment and notes that he has had no problems since 2000.

He no longer drinks liquor and only has an occasional beer, he said, and will not drive if he's consumed any alcohol. "I learned my lesson in 2000, and that was enough. There's just too much at stake ... how do you live with that?"

What happened 7 1/2 years ago, he said, has no effect on his ability to serve on the school board, and he said he hopes voters will more strongly weigh his credentials and views on the issues.

"A lot of people make mistakes," he said, "and a lot of people go on to achieve great things."

J. Pascal

Perennial candidate Pascal, whose full name is John Harvey Pascal, has been convicted of more than 20 public nuisance-related misdemeanors in the past 20 years, including multiple cases of intoxicated and disruptive behavior, trespassing and harassing phone calls.He has served stints in jail and on probation, and has also spent time in Broughton and Dorothea Dix hospitals.

He did not return calls for comment.

James Pearson

Pearson has been a defendant in two recent civil suits.

The first was a 2005 dispute over a lease at a Morganton plaza. Pearson had requested a one-year lease for his catering business, but the Pennsylvania-based landlord wanted a five-year lease and added other requirements.

At the end of the first year, Pearson said, the business was losing money and couldn't make it, and he needed to reach an agreement to get out. He and the leasing company settled for $6,500 last year.

In the next case, court records show Pearson was ordered to pay about $1,400 earlier this year for damage to personal property.

Pearson said he was helping a friend cut down a tree when a wind gust toppled the tree onto a neighbor's storage shed. He offered to repair the building, he said, but the woman demanded a replacement that he said was bigger and better than the shed that had been destroyed, and they proceeded to small claims court.

Pearson offered to buy her a new shed similar to the previous one, he said, and they went and picked one out that day.

"I took care of my responsibilities and everything I was asked to do and performed in an honest way," he said. "I've had two disputes, both have been settled to the satisfaction of both parties, and that's the way I carry on my life."

The same, he said, goes for any board member in decisions. "You make a decision, right or wrong, you need to be held responsible for that decision," he said.

Karen Brittain Sain

Sain was taken to small claims court in 2002 for nonpayment of membership dues to the Spa Athletic Club in Hickory.

She had been going there to exercise, she said, but stopped attending and paying her dues in protest after finding her young daughter unsupervised in the child care area.

Nonetheless, she said, she had signed a contract and promptly paid $1,459 once she was ordered to do so. She is no longer a member of the Spa.

The incident, she said, doesn't reflect at all on her ability to serve on the school board.

"(The child care) end of their bargain was not held up," she said. "I feel like (the nonpayment) was me taking care of my kids and looking after the best interests of my kids....You have to look at the reason why."

| 发布时间:2011.03.10    来源:    查看次数:868
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