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Jail captain lodges misconduct complaint against county commissioners


December 06, 2012
OSSIPEE — The Carroll County Jail's second-in-command has filed a complaint against the board of county commissioners alleging they violated state laws and jail policy and are "jeopardizing the safety and security of Carroll County House of Corrections."

The Nov. 7 complaint filed by CCHOC Captain Michael Fowler calls into question the commissioner's handling of the suspension of three corrections officers. Fowler spells out the chain of events that led to his filing the complaint.

On Oct. 19, after a six-week investigation, Officers Michael Medina, 22, and Taylor Goddard, 21, and Sgt. William Lewis, 26, were arrested by Ossipee Police and charged with providing alcohol to persons under the age of 21 at Medina's home Sept. 7. The three men are set to be arraigned in Third Circuit Court in Ossipee Dec. 19.

Following their arrest, an internal jail investigation was completed and it was decided the three, who reportedly have stellar personnel records, would remain on the job pending the outcome of their court hearing.

County Commissioners David Sorensen and Dorothy Solomon apparently disagreed with that decision. On Oct. 31 the two held a closed-door meeting, joined by Carroll County Attorney Thomas Dewhurst and Carroll County Sheriff Lt. Michael Santuccio after Commissioner Asha Kenney had gone home for the day. Following the meeting, Fowler said, Sorensen called CCHOC Superintendent Jason Johnson and ordered that the three be placed on immediate administrative leave. In his complaint, Fowler accuses the board of violating the state's Right-to-Know law, NH RSA 91-A by holding a non-posted meeting to decide the fate of county employees and called the commissioner's claim the meeting was attorney client privilege "absurd" given that it wasn't just the commissioners and an attorney but Santuccio was also in the room.

Fowler is further accusing the commissioners of violating jail policy by placing the three men on administrative leave after an internal investigation had already been conducted. Further, he said, the commissioners did not meet with jail administrators or review the Ossipee Police report prior to making the decision. Fowler said the commissioners are undermining Johnson's authority and acting as superintendents of the jail and that their vote to put the three men out on leave "has jeopardized the safety and security" of the jail and is "leaving it understaffed without any recommendations on how to safely operate the facility."

Fowler said believes he is protected under the Whistleblower's Protection Act in bringing his complaint forward. When asked which of the activities outlined in the law the commissioners are guilty of – gross mismanagement, waste of public funds, abuse of authority, or creating a danger to public health and safety – Fowler said, "I believe they all fit." And in response to his complaint, he wants the commissioners to acknowledge, in writing, that they violated state law and their own policies.

Another complaint

In addition to this complaint filed by Fowler, the commissioners announced at their Nov. 28 meeting that there is another complaint that has been filed against the board. Kenney said the board had received a complaint filed by an employee that was against the entire board but specifically names two commissioners. She would not say which two but added that she had found someone who could do the investigation. Sorensen said the investigation will be done by an employee of another county. The board declined to give the employee's name that filed that complaint. But, according to sources, it appears that complaint was also filed by Fowler.

The complaints have piled up over the past year. The first well-publicized complaint came in December 2011 from the county's former human resource director Robin Reade against Kenney. Over $13,000 was spent to investigate that complaint and a year later, the commissioners refuse to release any details of the outcome, seemingly protecting Kenney.

Nursing home employee Barbara Woodburn was next and took aim at Sorensen, Solomon and several of her coworkers in her harassment complaint that cost at least $30,000 to investigate. The results of that investigation remain under lock and key, with commissioners refusing "on the advice of our attorney" to release the results of the investigation into their alleged behavior.

Jail Sgt. Dean Perry praised Kenney but blasted Solomon and Sorensen in his complaint that he read in an open commissioner's meeting this past summer. An investigation was conducted by the county's human resource director Janice Sullivan and, again, the public has been given no insight into the investigation findings. Perry's complaint concerned his demotion by Johnson following the beating of inmate Michael Petelis by another inmate while he was in Perry's charge. Johnson reportedly wanted to fire Perry but was overridden by the commissioners who approved a temporary demotion instead.

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