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N.H. Rep Dave Babson calls for release of grievance report

July 12, 2012
OSSIPEE — N.H. State Representative David Babson, a usual attendee of county commissioner meetings, called on the commissioners at their July 5 meeting to release the results of the grievance filed against Commissioner Asha Kenney.

Babson, is running for county commissioner, and is competing against Kathleen Maloney of Ossipee and John "Jack" Rose of Albany for the Republican nomination to determine who will ultimately run against incumbent Democrat Dorothy Solomon. In his role as state representative he, along with the other representatives serving Carroll County also serve as the county delegation, responsible for setting the annual county budget and monitoring expenditures throughout the year.

"Over the past couple of weeks I have been asked by several people about the report that cost the taxpayers $18,000 or thereabouts. The feeling because it is taxpayer's money it ought to be made public. The consensus of the people that have talked to me is that if Robin Reade's charges are not sustainable then Commissioner Kenney is owed a big apology and if it appears that Commissioner Kenney was wrong, voters and taxpayers ought to know that…. Elected officials are held to a higher standard than the general public," Babson told commissioners.

Both Commissioner David Sorensen and Commissioner Dorothy Solomon agreed with Babson but, Sorensen said, the report has been withheld on the advice of the county's attorney as a precaution in case the grievance were to land in court.

"It is my understanding there is no lawsuit that is going to be precipitated from this and I would feel comfortable releasing whatever happened," said Solomon.

Sorensen agreed to call the attorney again and ask if they can release just the summary report from the investigation that took five months to complete. Attorneys advised against releasing the report, in part, because several people were interviewed during the course of the investigation and those people have not signed off, agreeing to allow their interviews to be made public. The summary, said Sorensen does not include information that identifies those people.

Not only has the report not yet been made available to the public, but the person filing the grievance, former human resource director Robin Reade, has not been allowed to see the report either.

Kenney called in absent a few minutes prior to the start of the meeting so it is not clear whether or not she supports the release of the report.

Steve Brown of Wakefield, another usual attendee of commission meetings, said releasing the report is fine "as long as it goes both ways." He was referring to the fact that a grievance filed earlier this spring by Barbara Woodburn, a social worker at the nursing home, should also be made public. Woodburn has requested that the investigation and resulting findings of the 13-page grievance she filed be conducted in public. In the grievance she charges misconduct by fellow employees, managers, nursing home administrator, the former human resources director, and two of the three commissioners.

In her complaint, Woodburn notes she was fired in 2005 then reinstated after the labor board found she had been wrongfully terminated. Sorensen is the only current commissioner who was on the board back then.

Woodburn claims that for the past six years she has been harassed by management and "went for years without a job description; was not informed of trainings; and that there has been "constant meddling, interference and sabotaging of my work by these managers." Woodburn added that she "expressed concern of the unprofessional environment in staff meetings [which I am forced to attend] where the managers would repeatedly talk about drunken parties attended by the upper managers. It was unprofessional and personally offensive to me."

Woodburn charges that Sorensen and Commissioner Dorothy Solomon have known "fully what was occurring regarding the harassment and hostility in the workplace and have knowingly and willingly allowed it to continue in violation of the harassment policy." Kenney escaped any blame for the allegations brought forward by Woodburn as she newly took office as commissioner in January 2011. Woodburn's 13-page complaint was released by Woodburn to media outlets and members of the public before Solomon and Sorensen received a copy. It is unclear whether or not Kenney was given an advance copy.

Commissioners have hired an attorney to look into the Woodburn's allegations and make a report. Because it is a harassment complaint and not a grievance, the process works somewhat differently. Had the county's human resource director not resigned, the harassment investigation would have been completed by her, thus saving the county money in legal fees.

Commission e-mail

Sorensen announced that the commissioners have agreed to no longer accept e-mail regarding county business to their personal e-mail accounts. An e-mail account has been set up for anyone interested in reaching the commissioners. E-mail sent to commissioners@carrollcountynh.net will go directly to the business office and then be distributed to the commissioners. A concern regarding the storage and retention of e-mail as a historical record was brought up at a recent commissioners meeting. The hope is that this move toward centralized e-mail will help to alleviate concerns about that issue and make for easier archival of these public records.

Martin Lord & Osman
Salmon Press
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