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Three employees resign following Elizabeth Craver's reinstatement as Pender County Clerk of Court

A white woman in a polka dotted blouse pushes her hair behind her ear while sitting in the witness stand in court. She looks pensive. The judge next to her watches the lawyer, who's out of frame, speak.
Nikolai Mather
Camille Harrell, who was appointed interim clerk of court in Pender County, resigned shortly after her former boss Elizabeth Craver was reinstated.

A judge dismissed Craver's removal hearing on Friday, saying her activities were not substantial enough to bar her from office. By Monday night, three of her employees had resigned.

On Monday, three Pender County employees turned in their resignations.

Camille Harrell, Cassie Messer and Madelene Trifoli all worked under Pender County Clerk of Court Elizabeth Craver, who up until April 19 had been suspended from office pending a removal hearing. Following an SBI investigation, a grand jury indicted Craver on several felony charges, and a judge temporarily suspended her from her duties at clerk. On Feb. 26, Judge R. Kent Harrell appointed Ms. Harrell (no relation) interim clerk of court.

Last week's special proceedings were to determine whether Craver's activities amounted to "willful misconduct," and if so, whether she should be removed from office. During the trial, Harrell, Messer and Trifoli all testified against their former boss.

Related:"Backwards lying and deceit": Pender County clerk of court removal hearing

Messer spoke at length about her cooperation with the SBI, who launched their investigation into Craver's office in the fall of 2023. She said in court that Craver demanded to know the details of her conversations with the SBI and with anyone "inside or outside the office."

"I felt intimidated," she said.

Trifoli also said she felt pressured by her former boss, who allegedly told Trifoli to not speak to SBI without Craver present.

Former employee Kristal Moore also testified at the hearing. Moore said that Craver fired her after she agreed to speak with the SBI. Craver also said during the hearing that she had originally planned to fire Harrell and Trifoli as well. But following counsel from a former attorney, she decided against it, saying it would give the "wrong appearance."

On Friday, the judge dismissed the hearing. He said some of Craver's activities amounted to "willful misconduct," but were ultimately not serious enough to warrant removal.

Craver has since returned to work. She is still facing several felony charges. Her criminal trial will likely be held sometime this spring. It's unclear whether Trifoli, Messer, or Harrell will testify again.

The Pender County Clerk of Court did not return WHQR's requests for comment. The North Carolina Judicial Branch has not yet provided personnel files for the three employees. We'll update once they do.

Nikolai Mather is a Report for America corps member from Pittsboro, North Carolina. He covers rural communities in Pender County, Brunswick County and Columbus County. He graduated from UNC Charlotte with degrees in genocide studies and political science. Prior to his work with WHQR, he covered religion in Athens, Georgia and local politics in Charlotte, North Carolina. In his spare time, he likes working on cars and playing the harmonica. You can reach him at nmather@whqr.org.