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Patricia Campatelli should resign — or courts must remove her

Patricia Campatelli was sworn in as Register of Probate on Jan. 2, 2013.

Jeremy C. Fox for The Boston Globe

Patricia Campatelli was sworn in as Register of Probate on Jan. 2, 2013.

Suffolk County Register of Probate Patricia Campatelli should resign, and if she doesn’t, the court system should proceed with the process of removing her. A court-appointed investigator’s report indicates that her behavior defies any reasonable standard of performance — in an office that shouldn’t even exist as an elected position in the first place.

As the Globe’s Sean P. Murphy and Andrea Estes reported recently, court-appointed investigator Ronald P. Corbett Jr. has identified what he called “serious deficiencies” in Campatelli’s conduct in office. Corbett’s report, which the Globe obtained, portrayed her as a foul-mouthed, intimidating boss who “created a fearful atmosphere” in the office, likely violated the court’s sexual harassment policy, and punished those who fell out of her favor. His report also concluded that she only showed up about three days a week for her $122,500-a-year post, arriving late and usually leaving by 3 p.m. Those short days were punctuated by several smoking breaks that sometimes lasted for half an hour.

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Campatelli has been suspended with pay since Jan. 14, while Corbett investigated her behavior. That suspension came after allegations that she punched an employee in the face during a night of heavy drinking. A previous inquiry by the court system’s human resources department concluded that that allegation hadn’t been proven. Although the alleged assault wasn’t Corbett’s primary focus, the investigator said that his own interviews had led him to the conclusion that there wasn’t sufficient reliable evidence to determine whether an assault had occurred. However, he did conclude that her heavy drinking with staff on that evening was irresponsible given her position.

Campatelli denied almost every problematic behavior Corbett asked about, leading him to conclude that the register hadn’t been truthful about her conduct. “It simply is not credible that so many employees would falsely report so many specific and similar details,” he wrote.

No, it’s not. Corbett’s report has now gone to the Committee of Professional Responsibility for Clerks of the Court, which can launch its own investigation and eventually make a recommendation to the high court to remove her. The committee should do so, unless Campatelli resigns first. The register’s position, essentially clerical in nature, has long been viewed mainly as a low-stress political sinecure. But at a bare minimum, the smooth functioning of the court system requires a register who isn’t actively disruptive.

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