by: Kathryn Burcham Updated:
STANLY COUNTY, N.C. - A state representative is calling for the chief district judge in Stanly County to be replaced.
Rep. Justin Burr, R-District 67, sent a letter to N.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Sarah Parker asking for an investigation into allegations of judicial misconduct, condemning what he called the "courthouse mafia."
"You've got families working in different departments up there. You've got a court system that's more interested in doing what's best for attorneys than doing what's best for our citizens," Burr said in a phone interview.
Burr cited concerns in the letter about "... favoritism, nepotism, cronyism and the failure of anyone to take action ..." in Stanly County.
In the letter, Burr also cited Channel 9's investigation into questions of misconduct involving Trial Court Coordinator Susan Honeycutt, Chief District Judge Lisa Thacker and Stanly County Sheriff Rick Burris.
Honeycutt is under investigation by State Bureau of Investigation.
"It's been one of the worst kept secrets, some of the things you've brought to light ... you have scratched the surface of what are numerous problems that go on," Burr said.
Burr also raised concerns in the letter about Thacker, citing her use of her personal email address to conduct public business, which he believes she is using to avoid public records laws.
"I believe she is. I have documentation where the only communication she seems to have in some cases is using her personal email address," Burr said.
Burr, who is a Republican, sponsored House Bill 807 last year to change Stanly County's judicial district, which would have eliminated a judicial seat and could have affected Thacker, who is a Democrat.
Burr maintains the call for an investigation by the North Carolina Judicial Standards Commission is not a personal vendetta.
"It's just some very unusual behaviors that seem to be taking place, and I believe they need to be investigated," Burr said.
Eyewitness News has tried to contact Thacker for weeks, through email, phone and a visit to her house.
Thacker sent Channel 9 a newsrelease Thursday that read, "Pursuant to North Carolina General Statutes, Chapter 126, this information is released in the interest of maintaining the integrity of the court system, in response to media inquiries.
“The matters that have been brought forward concerning the actions of an employee of this office, Susan Honeycutt, are currently under investigation by the SBI. This office has fully cooperated with all law enforcement agencies involved in the investigation.
“Mrs. Honeycutt is currently on leave. State and Federal personnel and privacy laws prohibit us from making any further comment as to the nature of the leave or the scope of the investigation. It would be highly inappropriate, and indeed improper, to respond further until the law permits us to do so.
“It is important that judicial officials follow the law, and express no public statement as to the merits, or lack thereof, of this or any other matter, until allowed to do so by law. It is important to the integrity of the Court System to respect this process. Accordingly, this office will not comment further until the law permits our office to respond."
The news release did not address questions Eyewitness News asked about the use of Thacker's personal email address or Burr's allegations.
Burr said since he sent the letter to Parker, he has been contacted by the Administrative Office of the Courts, the state agency that oversees judges and court officials like Honeycutt.
Since then, Burr said he has been asked to forward more information to the Judicial Standards Commission.