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Joyce Endee

County grievance findings hearing delayed twice

New Human Resources Director hired by county

August 23, 2012
OSSIPEE — For the second time, and at a reportedly increased expense to taxpayers, county commissioners have had to reschedule a meeting with their attorney to put to rest the harassment complaint filed by a nursing home worker.

Commissioners were scheduled to meet with the attorney Aug. 15 to go over the findings of the 13-page complaint filed by county nursing home social worker Barbara Woodburn. According to Commissioner David Sorensen, his fellow commissioners were aware of the Aug. 15 meeting at least two weeks in advance and it had been set to accommodate everyone's schedule. Commissioner Asha Kenney did not bother to tell Sorensen or Commissioner Dorothy Solomon that she was going on vacation and would not be available for the Aug. 15 meeting, something they found out through the rumor mill. As a result, the Aug. 15 attorney conference was cancelled. Much to Sorensen's surprise, about four and a half minutes into their regular weekly commission meeting, Aug. 15, in walked Kenney.

Prior to her walking in, Sorensen explained to the public in attendance that the commissioners had hoped to meet with the attorney and to hire a human resources director and Kenney knew of the plan yet didn't bother to notify anyone she was going on vacation. "I tried to call her home phone and her cell phone but got no word from her," said Sorensen. In a jab prompted by a previous meeting during which Kenney was chastised for texting on her phone during commission meetings, David Babson said, "Maybe you ought to text her" believing that might be a better way to get in touch with Kenney.

Once she arrived and was told the attorney meeting had been cancelled, Kenney fumbled a bit, stating she didn't know she was going on vacation but then she did and was able to find someone "up north" where she is staying to watch her kids so she could come down to Ossipee for the meeting.

Sorensen said when he cancelled the attorney meeting, he rescheduled it to Aug. 20 but Kenney said she had a conflict so it was rescheduled again to Aug. 22. Since that date is after press deadline for this week's paper it is unknown, for this article, whether or not the meeting finally happened.

Woodburn filed her complaint back in May, asking that the process be made public. Copies of the complaint were distributed by her to media and to other people after it was filed with the commissioners. It is unknown as of yet whether the commissioners will make the findings public as well. In the document, Woodburn spells out a long list of claims against Sorensen, Solomon, co-workers, nursing home management, and the former human resources director. She does not fault Kenney for what she claims is the mishandling of prior complaints she has filed. She charges the nursing home is a hostile work environment; that beds are not filled in a timely manner, and that there is "illegal and unethical" treatment of residents. She said she has been treated with hostility for six years, after she was rehired following a N.H. Labor Board finding that she was illegally fired after only three months on the job for "whistleblowing."

Sorensen said the commissioners have not received a final bill for the legal costs related to the investigation into Woodburn's claims but as of Aug. 15, the cost was estimated at $29,800.

Human Resources Director hired

Despite Kenney stating that she would prefer the county hire a county administrator instead of a full-time human resources director, all three commissioners voted in favor of hiring Janice Sullivan of Center Conway as the new director. "She sounds very professional and I think she will make a good asset to the County," said Kenney. The starting salary is $50,000 with a review and possible increase after six months.

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