Commission rules he failed to report income as a landlord
RALEIGH - An area judge has received a public reprimand for failing to report income he received as a landlord and presiding over a case in which a former tenant was involved.
Judge Peter Mack Jr., a district court judge for Judicial District 3B, which includes Carteret, Craven and Pamlico counties, was given the reprimand for conduct in violation of three canons of the North Carolina Code of Judicial Conduct.
The N.C. Supreme Court filed the order on Dec. 20 based on a recommendation of judicial discipline by the Judicial Standards Commission.
According to the findings of fact from the commission as listed in the order, Mack owns two residential properties in Craven County, one in New Bern and another in Havelock, which he has rented to various tenants over the past 10 years.
In his response to allegations, Mack indicated he received little to no annual net income from the rental properties but receives in excess of $5,000 annually in reportable extra-judicial income.
According to the findings, Mack did not file Canon 6 income reports with the Craven County Clerk of Superior Court for 2011, 2012 or 2013 but did file an amended report indicating the rental income from 2010 to 2014.
Mack is also required to report rental income on a Statement of Economic Interest (SEI) form, which he did from 2007 to 2010 but not from 2011 to 2014.
The order acknowledges that while this is a violation, there was no indication that Mack was attempting to willfully conceal the information.
“Respondent’s failure to properly report his rental income to the State Ethics Commission was not a willful or intentional attempt to conceal sources of income, nor did Respondent or any party appearing before him benefit in any way from his failure to report the income,” the order states. “However, Respondent’s affirmation, acknowledgment, and previous reporting of extra-judicial income on SEI reports from 2007-2010, show Respondent should have known to report this income.”
Because the omissions occurred over several years, the commission said failure to report the information went beyond an isolated incident and warranted more than a private letter of caution.
The reprimand also notes Mack’s violation of conduct by presiding over a criminal case in which he was a party.
Around October 2011, a former tenant vacated the Havelock home that Mack rents without notice and left significant damage to the property.
Mack contacted the former tenant seeking compensation for the damages, which the former tenant did not pay. In May 2013, Mack sought criminal charges against the former tenant for injury to real property.
The criminal case was first set for court for May 30, 2013, and was continued a number of times and remained pending for various reasons, including the former tenant’s difficulty finding a defense attorney, the order states.
The tenant eventually applied for a court-appointed attorney and an assistant public defender from outside Mack’s judicial district was assigned to the case.
In an effort to bring all the parties together in an attempt to settle the matter, the ADA assigned to the case put it on the calendar to be heard in Mack’s coutroom.
Mack presided over the case on April 25, 2014, providing photos of the damaged property to the ADA who consulted with the assistant public defender and the former tenant.
All parties agreed that the former tenant would pay $3,000 restitution and the criminal charges were dismissed. The restitution was received and was passed on to Mack by the ADA during a court recess.
According to the order, Mack has not challenged the findings of fact or opposed the Commission’s recommendation that he be publicly reprimanded before the court.
In his answer to the allegations, Mack said the failure to report the rental income was an unintentional oversight and that the handling of the case in which he received restitution was “not against normal protocol.”
Mack noted that all the transactions in the case were handled through his de facto attorney and the District’s Attorney’s office.
The Commission noted in its recommendation that regardless of what may be “routine” practice in the district, judges sit in a different position when it comes to resolving personal legal matters.
“In these circumstances, public confidence in the independence, impartiality and integrity of the judiciary depends on conduct, especially in the courtroom, that objectively and reasonably conveys a clear separation of the judge’s private interests from his judicial duties,” the order states.
While handing down the reprimand, the court also noted that Mack has an exemplary record of public service, having served in the Army and as a law enforcement officer before pursuing a career in law. Mack is also active in his home community.
The order states Mack’s full cooperation and action to correct any issues with reports filed and avoid conflict of interest in his role as a landlord.