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Collins Law Firm :: Blog

Thanksgiving 2018 – Safe Travel

November 14th, 2018

Thanksgiving—traditionally a celebration of the blessings of the year, including the harvest—is generally the begin of the “Holiday Season” in the United States.

This year there is a lot to be thankful for, i.e. higher wages, more disposable income and rising levels of household wealth.  This however is also expected to lead to an increase in Thanksgiving travel with projected 54.3 million Americans to travel 50 or more miles from home which is a 4.8 percent increase compared to last year’s travel.

In an effort to ensure safe travel, the North Carolina State Highway will participate in the Thanksgiving I-40 Challenge, and will be placing troopers every 20 miles along the 2,555 miles long interstate connecting Bartow, California, and Wilmington, North Carolina.

Travelers themselves can contribute to ensuring safe travel and abide by the road rules.  While most everybody is aware of the requirements to follow the speed limit, wear your seatbelt, and burn your headlights, there some other rules which appear not to be known so well:

The Fender Bender Law

Pursuant to N.C.G.S. § 20-161 motorists are required to move their vehicles to the shoulder of the road following a minor, non-injury crash.  The failure to do so could result in a $110 fine and court costs.

The Move over Law

Pursuant to N.C.G.S. § 20-157 motorists are required to:

Move the vehicle into a lane that is not the lane nearest the parked or standing authorized emergency vehicle or public service vehicle and continue traveling in that lane until it is safe to clear the authorized emergency vehicle. This paragraph applies only if the roadway has at least two lanes for traffic proceeding in the direction of the approaching vehicle and if the approaching vehicle may change lanes safely and without interfering with any vehicular traffic.

Slow the vehicle, maintaining a safe speed for traffic conditions, and operate the vehicle at a reduced speed and be prepared to stop until completely past the authorized emergency vehicle or public service vehicle. This paragraph applies only if the roadway has only one lane for traffic proceeding in the direction of the approaching vehicle or if the approaching vehicle may not change lanes safely and without interfering with any vehicular traffic.

A failure to obey by this law could result in a $500 fine.

The Keep Right Law

Pursuant to N.C.G.S. §20-146(b) vehicles traveling a multi-lane roadway at less than the legal maximum speed limit shall be driven in the right-hand lane then available for thru traffic, or as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the highway, except when overtaking and passing another vehicle proceeding in the same direction or when preparing for a left turn.  A violation of this law is an infraction pursuant to N.C.G.S. §20-176 (a) and if convicted, North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicle would assess 2 driver’s license points pursuant to N.C.G.S. §20-16 (c), or 3 driver’s license points if the violation occurred during the operation of a commercial motor vehicle.

Mobile phone Use by Drivers Younger than 18

Pursuant to N.C.G.S. §20-11(c)(6)  drivers under the age of 18 may not use a mobile phone when operating a motor vehicle except in case of an emergency to call 9-1-1.  Violators may have to pay a $25 fine.

Texting While Driving

Pursuant to N.C.G.S. § 20-137.4A motorists are prohibited from using their mobile telephone for text messaging or electronic mail.  A violation of this law may result in a $100 fine.

Spend this Thanksgiving holiday with your friends and/or family, enjoy your turkey and pumpkin pie, and have a few drinks if you wish, but please, be patient in this holiday traffic and if you drink, do not drive – take a cab, Uber, or Lyft or have a designated driver.

However, should you or someone you know receive a citation for a traffic violation in Southeastern North Carolina, in or around Wilmington, NC in New Hanover County, Brunswick County, or Pender County, contact Collins Law Firm at 910-793-9000 for a confidential consultation.

We wish you all safe travel and Happy Thanksgiving!

By Jana Collins

 

 

 

School Bus Safety – Operation Stop Arm

October 15th, 2018

In an attempt to ensure school bus safety, the North Carolina State Highway Patrol is taking proactive steps by launching their annual week-long statewide Operation Stop Arm beginning today, October 15, 2018.   State Troopers will be aggressively enforcing stop arm violations and other traffic violations in and around school zones statewide through the end of school Friday, October 19, 2012.

Colonel Glenn McNeill Jr., commander of the State Highway Patrol said:  “Every child should be afforded a safe means of travel as they attend their respective educational institution”, and that “While this operation is scheduled to conclude on Friday, our efforts will continue throughout the school year.”

As a reminder, we have listed what you are and are not allowed to do with respect to a stopped school bus:

  • Two-lane road – Everyone must stop
  • Four-lane road with no separation – Everyone must stop
  • Four-lane or more with a median or some physical barrier – Only traffic following the bus must stop
  • Center turn lane with less than four lanes – Everyone must stop
  • Center turn lane with at least four other lanes – Only traffic following the bus must stop

Pursuant to North Carolina State Law (N.C.G.S. §20-217), a driver must stop when a school bus is displaying its mechanical stop signal or flashing red lights and the bus is stopped for the purpose of receiving or discharging passengers, the driver of any other vehicle that approaches the school bus from any direction on the same street, highway, or public vehicular area shall bring that other vehicle to a full stop and shall remain stopped. The driver of the other vehicle shall not proceed to move, pass, or attempt to pass the school bus until after the mechanical stop signal has been withdrawn, the flashing red stoplights have been turned off, and the bus has started to move.

Consequences for motorists who fail to comply with school bus safety rules:

  • Minimum fine of $500 and a Class 1 misdemeanor if you pass a stopped school bus
  • Minimum fine of $1,250 and a Class I felony if you pass a stopped school bus and strike someone
  • Minimum fine of $2,500 and a Class H felony if someone is killed

While drivers are required by law to stop when a school bus is loading or unloading passengers, it is also very important for parents to talk to their children and instruct them to stop and look both ways when getting on or off of the school bus, just in case a driver does not stop for the stopped bus for any reason.

If you or somebody you know receives a citation for not complying with school bus safety rules or face any other kind of traffic or criminal charges in our area, Collins Law Firm can help.  We have handled thousands of traffic tickets for our clients, and we offer free phone consultations for most traffic or criminal matters. Please call us for a confidential consultation at: 910-793-9000.

By Jana Collins, Office Manager

Hurricane Florence Recovery:  I-40 reopens from Raleigh to Wilmington

September 28th, 2018

For over 10 days after Hurricane Florence made landfall at Wrightsville Beach, NC, Interstate I-40 was closed in sections from Wilmington to Raleigh.  Now, as of September 25, 2018, people can drive the entire length of interstates 95 and 40 through North Carolina.

News outlets reported that North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper said floodwaters receded over this past weekend faster than expected, allowing N.C. Department of Transportation crews to inspect and open both highways by Tuesday morning. The opening of I-40 through Duplin and Pender counties restored the main route in and out of Wilmington to I-95.  Wilmington was completely landlocked for several days because of floodwaters due to Hurricane Florence.

On September 15, 2018, I-95 was closed in parts of NC, and travel up and down the East Coast was disrupted. At one time, the recommended detour was to drive completely around North and South Carolina, through Knoxville, TN and Atlanta, GA.

As the Lumber River and Cape Fear River receded after the storm, I-95 dried out on Sunday, and NCDOT engineers inspected it to see if it was safe to use. DOT personnel found one area that needed repairs which were promptly completed.

Other roads that reopened Monday are the U.S. 70 Bypass at Kinston and U.S. 74 between I-95 near Lumberton and Wilmington.

Governor Cooper urged people to obey road closure signs and not to drive around barriers into flood waters. He said that as of September 24, the death toll from the storm had risen to 35 in North Carolina, and that some of those deaths had resulted from people driving into floodwaters.

In the Outer Banks, N.C. 12 on Ocracoke Island is closed.  It could take until the end of October to have repairs to erosion of the dune and damage to the pavement that make the road impassable repaired.  Until repairs are completed, the ferry between Hatteras and Ocracoke is closed.

Recovery efforts continue.  The New Hanover County Courthouse re-opened on Monday, September 24th.  However the Brunswick County Courthouse and the Pender County Courthouse remain closed indefinitely.

Pender County estimated that about 25 percent of the county flooded, closing major highways and submerging many homes.  Due to flooding, the county remained landlocked for over a week and many residents were forced into emergency evacuations.  Last week water spilled over into the road and washed out parts of U.S. 421, washing out the entire highway across all four lanes.  The emergency manager for Pender County said it could take months to re-open that route back into Wilmington.

Be safe as our community recovers from this historic storm.  If you or someone you know are in need of legal services in the Wilmington area, call Collins Law Firm for a confidential consultation at 910-793-9000.

By David B. Collins, Jr.

Maritime or Admiralty Law

June 28th, 2018

Maritime law, better known as Admiralty law, is a body of law concerning behaviors and activities on the sea. Admiralty law governs the interactions of those who conduct business on the water. Primarily the focus is on international waters, but laws are applied to waters in and around each country.

Americans are often unaware that when they board a cruise ship there are admiralty laws that apply to them. These laws affect everyone that travels on the high seas. They regulate many situations including commerce, navigation, lost cargo, leisure travel and the interactions between seamen and their employers.

Admiralty law is a mix of international agreements and domestic laws. In the United States, this law mostly falls under the federal law. There are instances where it could go to state court, such as personal injury cases that occur on the seas.

There are several rules and principles that apply to actives on the high seas such as maintenance and care, duties to passengers, liens and mortgages, salvage and treasure, and lifesaving on the high seas.  Maintenance and care refers to a situation where a seaman is in service to an employer and the right they have to appropriate injury care.  A seaman has the right to treatment until their journey ends.  Duties to passengers include passengers on a ship that have the right to reasonable care while on the ship.  When a contract disagreement arises involving companies that do business on international water they must have a forum to resolve the issue, which is the liens and mortgages principle. The salvage and treasure principle is when a party recovers lost treasure and other lost cargo, and a question arises as to how to fairly divide the recovered possessions.  Lastly, lifesaving on the high seas refers to there being no salvage for saving a life. Seamen are expected to do their absolute best to save the life of anyone in danger on the high seas.

The U.S. Coast Guard enforces the admiralty laws within their jurisdiction.  In the United States, the Coast Guard has jurisdiction up to 12 miles from our coast, and another limited jurisdiction for 12 miles beyond the initial 12 miles.

Remember when you’re out on the boat for the July 4th holiday that Admiralty laws apply to you and everyone else who finds themselves at sea. Should you or someone you know becomes injured on the water, call the professionals at Collins Law Firm at 910-793-9000 for a confidential consultation.

By Haley Rouse, Legal Assistant

North Carolina Driver License Suspensions and Revocations

June 15th, 2018

In North Carolina, driving is a privilege.  Some drivers however put themselves and others in danger by disregarding traffic laws and driving dangerously, negligently or carelessly.  Such driving behavior is an abuse of one’s driving privilege and may result in the loss of said privilege.  The temporary loss of one’s driving privilege is called suspension.  Upon successful completion of the terms of the suspension, one may get their driving privilege reinstated.  Some offenses however, warrant one’s driving privileges to be terminated.  This is called revocation.  Upon a revocation, one must meet eligibility requirements in order to get their license reinstated and may need to have an administrative hearing.  Once found eligible, one will need to reapply for a driver license at a driver license office.

Below is a table providing general information regarding common suspensions and revocations.  However, each driving record is different and multiple suspensions may effect one’s eligibility for reinstatement of their driving privileges.

Offense

Length of Suspension/
Revocation

Driving while impaired 1st offense 1 year
2nd offense 4 years
3rd or subsequent offense Permanent
Refused chemical analysis 1 year
30-day civil revocation 30 days – extends until compliance with court

Driving with suspended or revoked license

1st offense 1 year
2nd offense 2 years
3rd or subsequent offense Permanent
Failure to appear Indefinite
Failure to pay fine Indefinite

Speed over 55 mph and exceeding limit by more than 15 mph

1st offense 30 days
2nd offense within 12 months 60 days
Convicted of reckless driving on the same occasion 60 days
Two convictions speeding over 55 mph in 12 months Up to 6 months

Accumulation of 12 points in 3 years or 8 points in 3 years following reinstatement of license

1st suspension 60 days
2nd suspension 6 months
3rd or subsequent suspension 1 year

Moving violation while license is suspended

1st offense 1 year
2nd offense 2 years
3rd or subsequent offense Permanent
Violation of ignition interlock restriction 1 year

Therefore, it is important that you consult with an attorney knowledgeable and experienced in dealing with violations of traffic laws and driving privileges to either avoid a suspension or revocations, or to meet eligibility requirements for the reinstatement of one’s driving privilege.

Collins Law Firm represents people charged with a wide range of traffic matters from simple speeding tickets to serious felony charges. In many cases we are able to avoid the necessity of our clients appearing in court and we help eliminate or mitigate the negative consequences of citations or charges. For most minor traffic matters, Collins Law Firm offers a free initial telephone consultation or we usually have appointments available immediately if you would like to come to our office to meet with a member of our staff.

Should you or someone you know receive a citation for a traffic law violation such as a speeding ticket, call the friendly professionals at Collins Law Firm at 910-793-9000 for a confidential consultation.

By Jana H. Collins

Memorial Day Weekend – Click it or Ticket

May 25th, 2018

Pursuant to North Carolina General Statute § 20-135.2A, all passengers in a vehicle are required to be properly restrained and violations are punishable by fines of currently up to $179.

North Carolina Highway Patrol, Colonel Bill Grey said:  “Wearing your seat belt is the single most effective action to protect yourself in a crash.”

Over 400 people died last year in North Carolina alone as a result of not wearing their seat belt.

In an effort to reduce that number, the N.C. Governor’s Highway Safety Program along with state and local law enforcement will be ticketing offenders.   This year’s 25th annual Memorial Day Click It or Ticket campaign began on Monday, May 21, and will last through Sunday, June 3, 2018.

Therefore, if you hit the road along with almost 1.1 million North Carolinians this weekend, make sure you travel safely and buckle up.

Should you or someone you know still end up with a seat belt ticket or any other kind of traffic citation in New Hanover, Brunswick, or Pender County, then Collins Law Firm can help.  Please call us at 910-793-9000 for a confidential consultation.

Enjoy your Holiday weekend!

By Jana H. Collins

DOT & Dangerous Roads Injuries

April 19th, 2018

The North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) is one of the state’s largest agencies and its responsibilities include building, repairing, and operating all kinds of transportation within the state of North Carolina – i.e. highways, railroads, aviation, ferries, public transit, bike paths, and pedestrian walkways.

The department is led by the secretary of transportation who is a member of the governor’s cabinet.

N.C.G.S. § 143B-346 defines the purpose and functions of the NC DOT as follows:

The general purpose of the Department of Transportation is to provide for the necessary planning, construction, maintenance, and operation of an integrated statewide transportation system for the economical and safe transportation of people and goods as provided for by law. The Department shall also provide and maintain an accurate register of transportation vehicles as provided by statutes, and the Department shall enforce the laws of this State relating to transportation safety assigned to the Department. The Department of Transportation shall be responsible for all of the transportation functions of the executive branch of the State as provided by law except those functions delegated to the Utilities Commission and the Commissioners of Navigation and Pilotage as provided for by Chapter 76. The major transportation functions include aeronautics, highways, mass transportation, motor vehicles, and transportation safety as provided for by State law. The Department of Transportation shall succeed to all functions vested in the Board of Transportation and the Department of Motor Vehicles on July 1, 1977.

While the state and local governments are generally protected from all kinds of lawsuits based on both sovereign and governmental immunity which derived from the English concept that the “king can do no wrong,” the state has waived its immunity against tort claims as provided by N.C.G.S. § 143-291, which reads as follows:

(a) The North Carolina Industrial Commission is hereby constituted a court for the purpose of hearing and passing upon tort claims against the State Board of Education, the Board of Transportation, and all other departments, institutions and agencies of the State. The Industrial Commission shall determine whether or not each individual claim arose as a result of the negligence of any officer, employee, involuntary servant or agent of the State while acting within the scope of his office, employment, service, agency or authority, under circumstances where the State of North Carolina, if a private person, would be liable to the claimant in accordance with the laws of North Carolina. If the Commission finds that there was negligence on the part of an officer, employee, involuntary servant or agent of the State while acting within the scope of his office, employment, service, agency or authority that was the proximate cause of the injury and that there was no contributory negligence on the part of the claimant or the person in whose behalf the claim is asserted, the Commission shall determine the amount of damages that the claimant is entitled to be paid, including medical and other expenses, and by appropriate order direct the payment of damages as provided in subsection (a1) of this section, but in no event shall the amount of damages awarded exceed the amounts authorized in G.S. 143-299.2 cumulatively to all claimants on account of injury and damage to any one person arising out of a single occurrence. Community colleges and technical colleges shall be deemed State agencies for purposes of this Article. The fact that a claim may be brought under more than one Article under this Chapter shall not increase the foregoing maximum liability of the State.

(a1) The unit of State government that employed the employee at the time the cause of action arose shall pay the first one hundred fifty thousand dollars ($150,000) of liability, and the balance of any payment owed shall be paid in accordance with G.S. 143-299.4.

 (b) If a State agency, otherwise authorized to purchase insurance, purchases a policy of commercial liability insurance providing coverage in an amount at least equal to the limits of the State Tort Claims Act, such insurance coverage shall be in lieu of the State’s obligation for payment under this Article.

 (c) The North Carolina High School Athletic Association, Inc., is a State agency for purposes of this Article, and its liability in tort shall be only under this Article. This subsection does not extend to any independent contractor of the Association. The Association shall be obligated for payments under this Article, through the purchase of commercial insurance or otherwise, in lieu of any responsibility of the State or The University of North Carolina for this payment. The Association shall be similarly obligated to reimburse or have reimbursed the Department of Justice for any expenses in defending any claim against the Association under this Article.

 (d) Liability in tort of the State Health Plan for Teachers and State Employees for noncertifications as defined under G.S. 58-50-61 shall be only under this Article.

The Industrial Commission has exclusive, original jurisdiction over claims covered by the Tort Claims Act. Payments by the state under the Tort Claims Act are limited to one million dollars ($1,000,000.00) as provided by N.C.G.S. § 143-299.2:

(a) The maximum amount that the State may pay cumulatively to all claimants on account of injury and damage to any one person arising out of any one occurrence, whether the NC General Statutes – Chapter 143 Article 31 7 claim or claims are brought under this Article, or Article 31A or Article 31B of this Chapter, shall be one million dollars ($1,000,000), less any commercial liability insurance purchased by the State and applicable to the claim or claims under G.S. 143-291(b), 143-300.6(c), or 143-300.16(c).

(b) The fact that a claim or claims may be brought under more than one Article under this Chapter shall not increase the above maximum liability of the State.

Collins Law Firm along with H. Mitchell Baker, III, have experience in bringing action under the Tort Claims Act based on the NCDOT’s failure to have adequate signage or warnings in place to notify and warn motorists of upcoming intersections, or based on the NC DOT’s breach of its duty to keep the public streets open for travel and free from unnecessary obstructions.

If you or someone you know and care about has been injured due to negligence by NCDOT, please call Collins Law Firm at 910-793-9000 for a free confidential consultation.

By Jana H. Collins

Attorney represents woman for free after seeing her story on WECT

December 3rd, 2017

An 81-year-old woman ticketed for passing an idling line of cars in order to access her own driveway got a break in court, after an attorney saw her story on WECT and offered to represent her for free.

In September, we ran a story about problems residents in the Green Meadows Neighborhood were having when cars cued up outside their homes for carpool drop off and pick-up at nearby Noble Middle School.

They complained the line of cars backed up for blocks and blocks outside of the school parking lot, sometimes limiting access in and out of their driveways for 30 minutes or more twice a day.

Their frustration escalated when resident Joann McKendrick received a $238 ticket in September for driving around a line of cars blocking access to her house.

Attorney David Collins saw the story about her ticket, and offered to represent McKendrick in court at no charge. Collins thought there were several legal defenses in her case and hoped he could get her ticket reduced if not dismissed entirely.

McKendrick happily accepted his offer when we put Collins in touch with her. She had been charged with operating a motor vehicle on the wrong side of the roadway, and her case went to court earlier this month.

“The prosecutor was not willing to completely dismiss it, but we were able to get it reduced to a non-moving violation with no points, and Ms. McKendrick did not have to appear in court,” Collins explained of the outcome of the case.

Wilmington Police had initially beefed up their patrolling in the neighborhood at the request of residents upset about the traffic tie-ups.

But Collins says Wilmington Police told him the vast majority of the subsequent tickets were given to people who lived in the neighborhood, not drivers waiting to drop off or pick up their kids from Noble Middle School.

“After patrolling for a few weeks, the complaints stopped, so [police] discontinued patrolling for these type of violations,” Collins said of how the situation was explained to him.

He says he was also told the school board and city planning officials were looking into potentially expanding the street to include a waiting area for cars so they would not block the flow of traffic.

By: Ann McAdams, Investigative Reporter

Potential Civil Liability for Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, Owned by MGM Resorts

October 11th, 2017

Sunday, October 1, 2017, Stephen Paddock carried out the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.  We extend our deepest sympathies to the victims and their families of this unbelievable tragedy.

The shooter had been in his hotel room at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino on the Las Vegas Strip days before he carried out the shooting.  Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino is owned by MGM Resorts.  Paddock had stockpiled an arsenal of weapons in his suite on the 32nd floor.  Just before the shooting, Paddock broke two windows and fired hundreds of rounds into the crowd of 22,000 attending the Route 91 Harvest Festival, which was being held across the street at Las Vegas Village.  Las Vegas Village is also owned by MGM Resorts.  The concert promoter was Live Nation.

Mandalay Bay and Live Nation may be liable for civil damages to the victims and families for the lack of warning signs and security deficits.  News reports continue to reveal more details about what failures in security procedures occurred.

Deanna Ting, hospitality editor at the travel-industry intelligence company Skift reportedly said:  “What happened on Sunday is sort of a larger wake-up call for the industry to take a step back and ask themselves: ‘What about my city? What am I doing to make sure that … my guests are safe and secure?'”.   The killer, Stephen Paddock, had stockpiled weapons in his hotel room for three days before firing from the windows of his suite on the 32nd floor into the crowd of 22,000 people across the street, killing 58 people and wounding almost 500 others.

The Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino, as well as other properties owned by MGM Resorts — including the Bellagio, Monte Carlo, and the MGM Grand — have increased security levels, according to a spokesperson from the company. The Wynn Resort in Las Vegas added new security measures after the shooting, scanning guests with metal detectors and putting bags through X-ray machines.

Damages which could be recovered by victims and families include damages for personal injuries and disabilities, medical expenses, wrongful death, and counseling for post-traumatic stress disorder.

If you or a loved one has suffered injuries due to any negligent act or omission of another, call Collins Law Firm for a free confidential consultation at 910-793-9000.

By David B. Collins, Jr.

 

Expungement in North Carolina – a second chance made easier

August 5th, 2017

It happens so easily—one makes a bad choice, gets misunderstood, or falsely accused, and in the result faces criminal charges.  Regardless of the outcome in a criminal matter—even in case of a wrongful criminal charge—the fact that one was criminally charged will result in a criminal record.  Unless dealt with appropriately, a criminal record may create a virtuous circle and negatively affect one’s chances in the job market, in college applications, on the housing market, etc.  In an attempt to mitigate or avoid negative consequences of one’s criminal record, one should consult with an attorney about whether or not they are eligible for an expunction of their criminal record and if eligible, pursue the expunction.

An expunction, also called expungement, is a process ordered by the court in which one’s criminal record is “sealed”, or erased.

Thanks to Gov. Roy Cooper who ratified Senate Bill 445 on July 28, 2017, the accessibility of the expunction process will be improved drastically for about 2 million North Carolinians who currently have a criminal record effective December 1, 2017.  Here are the two expungements we mostly pursued in our office:

  1. Expungement of records when charges were dismissed pursuant to N.C.G.S. §15A-146

There will no longer be a limit on how many expunctions one can pursue—the only condition will be that one “had not previously been convicted of any felony under the laws of the United States, this State, or any other state”.

  1. Expunction of “nonviolent” misdemeanors and felonies pursuant to N.C.G.S. §15A-145.5

In order to qualify for an expunction under this section, one may not have “other misdemeanor or felony convictions, other than a traffic violation”.  While under the current law, one needs to wait 15 years after the date of the conviction or “when any active sentence, period of probation, and post-release supervision has been served, whichever occurs later” , under the new law that wait time will be reduced to just five years for misdemeanors and ten years for felonies.

If you or someone you know have a criminal record and consider pursuing an expungement in New Hanover, Pender, or Brunswick Counties, North Carolina, call Collins Law Firm at (910) 793-9000 for a confidential consultation.

By Jana H. Collins, Office Manager