In an unanimous opinion in May, the state Supreme Judicial Court set a precedent by terminating Barnstable District Court Clerk-Magistrate Robert Powers for failing to perform to expected standards and, when he did show up for work-often late-bullying staffers and members of the general public who had to appear before him.
was investigating clerk-magistrates for its story, Powers
was a focus of the reporting.
Several court employees said he
had a spotty attendance record and was constantly tardy for work.
Over the course of several weeks, we spot-checked Powers's home in Hyde Park and his
office at Barnstable court.
On three of those days, Powers's
two cars were in his
Hyde Park driveway while his
parking space behind the court was empty or occupied by another employee.
At least twice Powers's blue Honda with a distinctive three-digit license plate pulled into the court parking lot between 9:30 and 10 a.m., an hour or more after the court had already opened for business.
One of those times, Powers
parked in an adjacent spot because his
designated spot was taken.
Several minutes later, a court employee dashed out and moved his
The CommonWealth article did not include any reference to Powers's name or habits because it could not be verified if he
was on vacation or had other authorized days off when he
was away from the court.
at the time did not return several calls and CommonWealth's request for attendance and time documents was denied because court records are not subject to the state's Public Records Law.
The report on Powers
indicates court officials began their own investigation of him in early 2011 and, later that year, transferred him to Taunton District Court to learn how to be a good clerk-magistrate, which became moot when the SJC terminated him.
The bar that the SJC set in removing Powers
from office was "the public good," an undefined standard that will now have clerk-magistrates on alert and looking over their shoulders.
"We conclude, after considering the totality of the circumstances, that the public good requires his
removal," Gant wrote in the opinion.
and any other clerks who lose their jobs for doing them poorly won't have to fear for their retirement.
Jon Carlisle, a spokesman for state Treasurer Steven Grossman, says because Powers
was removed for his
job performance, and not because of any criminal conviction, he
will retain his
will receive about $76,000 a year in retirement, based on his
nearly 35 years in state government as a probation officer and assistant district attorney and his
three largest-earning years, which came as clerk-magistrate at about $110,000 a year.