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Suffolk register of probate agrees to resign

Campatelli avoids penalties in allegations of punching worker, seeks higher pension

Patricia Campatelli was sworn in by Justice Paula M. Carey on Jan. 2, 2013, but the embattled Suffolk register of probate has been on paid leave for most of 2014.Jeremy C. Fox for The Boston Globe /file/Boston Globe

Embattled Suffolk Register of Probate Patricia Campatelli has agreed to resign effective Christmas Day, court officials confirm, avoiding formal discipline for allegedly punching one employee and bullying others while also facing accusations of lax work habits.

Campatelli has been on paid administrative leave from the $134,692 job for nearly a year since she allegedly assaulted employee Timothy Perry after a holiday party in 2013. Campatelli lost her bid for reelection in November, but she still faced a potential unpaid suspension from a panel that disciplines clerk-magistrates before she leaves office in January.

Campatelli, 50, also told the courts that she would retire from the Probation Department where she had worked for nine years before winning surprise election as register of probate in 2012. She had taken a leave of absence from her $110,742 probation post to run for the position.


“Because she resigned and retired, the matter is closed,” said Trial Court Chief Justice Paula M. Carey and Trial Court Administrator Harry Spence in a joint statement. “Effective December 26, Patricia Campatelli is no longer an employee of the Trial Court.”

Campatelli, 50, has never admitted any wrongdoing, arguing that she was a victim of unsubstantiated rumors. Her lawyers appealed unsuccessfully to the state’s highest court to block the paid suspension on the grounds that she is an elected official who cannot be sidelined by court administrators.

RELATED: Report portrays do-little Suffolk register

“Patty has been a dedicated public servant for decades in Boston, and has decided to retire to Florida,” said J.W. Carney Jr., her attorney.

The resignation appeared to be part of an effort to make the best of her situation, avoiding punishment while boosting her retirement income under a controversial law that allows some defeated politicians to collect a larger pension.

Campatelli has already filed for the larger pension, called a Section 10, which was phased out as part of state pension reform in 2010, but still available to employees who joined the state retirement system before April 2, 2012.


The provision is reserved for employees who lose their jobs through no fault of their own, including elected officials who lose reelection.

If her pension is approved, Campatelli would qualify for about $53,000 a year — substantially more than if she applied for a standard pension.

Campatelli’s decision to step down brings to a close her tumultuous two years in the relatively obscure job managing the probate and family court in Boston.

A political newcomer who upset a Boston city councilor to win the position, Campatelli got into trouble within a year when she was accused of punching Perry in the face on the way home from a 2013 Christmas party.

She was placed on paid leave after the incident but was allowed to return to work briefly after trial court officials could not substantiate the assault charges leveled by Perry, who said he suffered bruises from the attack.

But when the Globe published a story in January detailing complaints of other employees about Campatelli’s behavior in the office, she was placed on indefinite leave and trial court administrators appointed a special investigator to look into the allegations.

The investigator, former probation commissioner Ronald P. Corbett Jr., found that Campatelli worked only 15 hours a week and spent much of it taking smoking breaks, playing scratch tickets, looking at East Boston real estate on the Internet, and doing puzzles.


Corbett found that she had “created a fearful atmosphere “ in the office, retaliating against workers who questioned her long breaks and plotting to get rid of employees so she could hire her own people, Corbett found.

But Corbett could not sort out the facts behind Campatelli’s alleged Dec. 18, 2013, assault on Perry, noting that both had been drinking heavily at two bars before the incident and that Perry had been slightly inconsistent in recounting his story to others at the time.

In March, trial court administrators forwarded Corbett’s report to the Committee on Professional Responsibility for Clerks of the Court, an arm of the Supreme Judicial Court that works in secrecy, for possible disciplinary action, which can include removal from office.

For months, the committee has been working to resolve the case, during which time Campatelli lost a six-way race for reelection to former Boston city councilor Felix D. Arroyo.

The day after the election, according to her Facebook page, Campatelli flew to Florida where she is now moving.

For months, the clerk’s committee had been considering a brief unpaid suspension, but Campatelli instead brought the case to an end by agreeing to step down both from the Register of Probate job and her position in the Probation Department’s office of community corrections.

Campatelli did not return calls seeking comment, but she has been defiant in past interviews. She called Corbett’s report about her job performance “nonsense. There’s no sworn testimony. It’s garbage with no dates. I don’t have a lie in me.”


More coverage:

SJC upholds suspension of Suffolk register

Editorial: Patricia Campatelli unfit even for arcane register of probate office

Embattled Suffolk register asks for reinstatement

Editorial: Patricia Campatelli should resign

Embattled Suffolk register wants to return to work

Report portrays do-little Suffolk County register

Suffolk official, deemed untruthful, to remain on leave

Suffolk official investigated for alleged assault

Andrea Estes, a member of the Globe Spotlight Team, can be reached at