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Joyce Endee

Hearing on corrections officer grievance doesn't happen

Details of basic issues in Perry case still unknown as another hearing fails

August 09, 2012
OSSIPEE — As it turns out, it was the hearing that wasn't and as of press time, it is unknown whether it ever will be.

As reported last week, Carroll County House of Corrections officer Dean Perry read aloud his grievance against two of the county commissioners at their July 25 weekly meeting. His grievance which is nearly three pages long he stated that he was "filing a public grievance against you for your abuse of authority as an elected public official and for your failure to properly and ethically enforce your duties…"

Because Perry had announced he wanted his grievance to be addressed in a public forum, the commissioners scheduled a hearing for 2 p.m. at the county administration building. Jail administrators, county delegates, jail employees who were expected to be called as witnesses and several members of the press and public anxiously awaited the beginning of the hearing.

Attorney Thomas Closson of the law firm Jackson Lewis LLP of Portsmouth spoke to both sides prior to the start of the hearing, and he later stated that it was clear each side had a different expectation of what the hearing was going to entail. In a telephone interview with Perry prior to the day of the hearing, he told this reporter that Perry expected only his July 25 grievance and his charges of commissioner misconduct to be addressed. He said he also filed a grievance on June 13 because he felt he was unfairly demoted and suspended and was upset that Commissioner David Sorensen and Commissioner Dorothy Solomon supported CCHOC Superintendent Jason Johnson's recommendation that this action be taken against him. According to Perry, Commissioner Asha Kenney had told him the disciplinary action taken against him was unjustified.

He indicated that the reason he filed the July 25 grievance was because he didn't think the commissioners handled his June 13 grievance properly. In reviewing his July 25 grievance, the main issues appear to be that Perry asked the human resources assistant not be allowed to be involved in his grievance but the commissioners "ignored his request" and that when the county attorney and sheriff's department refused to get involved in the grievance investigation due to a conflict of interest concern, the entire matter was sent out to the Belknap County CCHOC Superintendent for an independent peer review.

A source close to the investigation told this reporter that the county attorney and sheriff's department could not investigate how Perry's grievance was handled because they will be involved in a criminal matter involving the assault of county inmate Michael Petelis. In a grand jury indictment in July, Ombleo Keilson Daniels, 41, currently housed at Strafford County Jail in Dover, is charged with assaulting inmate Petelis at Carroll County House of Corrections May 26. The indictment alleges that Daniels repeatedly punched Petelis in the head, face, and body, causing injury to Petelis. In some way the Perry grievance and this criminal case may overlap.

Perry was still a sergeant at the jail when the alleged Daniels/Petelis incident occurred but jail officials would not release information about whether Perry was on duty as a supervisor during the alleged attack.

Perry also accuses the commissioners of violating state law NH RSA 31:39A is a law that allows towns to adopt a conflict of interest policy, RSA 354-A that refers to the operation of the state commission on human rights, and RSA 147-A that regulates hazardous waste management. It is unclear how any of these laws apply in this situation as Perry's grievance gives no further explanation on how the commissioners violated these laws.

In the days leading up to the hearing, and the morning of the hearing, Commissioner David Sorensen said that he expected all of the issues and the history that lead to Perry's latest grievance would be put on the table. It was this difference in opinion that resulted in a non-public session being held before the public hearing. As a result of whatever conversation happened in non-public session, the public hearing was cancelled as Perry decided to withdraw his request to have his concerns heard publicly.

One notable absence at the hearing was Commissioner Asha Kenney. She was reportedly in the commissioner's business office prior to 2 p.m. When it was time to head upstairs for the hearing, she did not tell her fellow commissioners that she was not going to attend. Reportedly, while they headed upstairs she did not follow but rather headed outside and left the county complex. While the grievance was not directed at her, it is unknown why she chose not to attend the hearing in her role as a commissioner.

Kenney questioned Sorensen hiring Closson without a vote by commissioners. Closson is familiar with the workings of the county as he has worked in the past with negotiations of the union contracts. Sorensen said Closson was being brought in to moderate the Perry hearing because of his expertise in labor law.

Salmon Press
Martin Lord Osman
Varney Smith
Garnett HIll
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