Carroll County Year in Review, Part II

January 10, 2013
OSSIPEE — The November 2012 election brought many changes to Carroll County Government. Sworn in recently were the county's new sheriff, county attorney, county commissioner, and five Democrat representatives that now balance out the formerly all-Republican county delegation.

There was a lot of news coming out of the county government complex in 2012, and, unfortunately, much of it was negative.

In June, the commissioners were slapped with a 13-page grievance filed in public by the nursing home's social worker Barbara Woodburn. The grievance pointed blame at the commissioners, nursing home administrators and her fellow employees. Though she went public with the grievance, all results of the investigation into her complaints have been kept under lock and key by commissioners, who say their attorney has advised against releasing any details.

The public has been kept in the dark about the details and whether or not what Woodburn hoped to get out of the filing was realized. At the time, Woodburn said she called for an investigation into Commissioner David Sorensen's and Commissioner Dorothy Solomon's "misconduct" and "lack of response to a hostile work environment." She also accused the commissioners of manipulating the nursing home waiting list. She demanded that those she worked with who "perpetrated harassment and hostility" towards her be severely disciplined or terminated. Commissioners won't say whether Woodburn or any other employees were disciplined or terminated after the investigation into Woodburn's complaints, but several people have resigned, on their own free will, since June 2012 including the nursing home administrator, director of nursing, and the MDS coordinator. According to sources, Woodburn has been out on leave from her position for an extended period due to medical reasons.

In July, Carroll County House of Corrections Sgt. Dean Perry read his complaint against Commissioners Solomon and Sorensen during a public meeting and accused them of "collectively and knowingly" making several false statements, violating his civil rights, and breaking several county and state policies. Perry said he wanted his complaint to be handled all within the open public forum. But, when it was realized that airing his complaint in public meant he too would be subject to scrutiny as his eight-year employment history at the jail would also be part of the public record, he decided he wanted the matter to be private. While he was allowed to publicly complain against two of the commissioners, those two never got the opportunity to publicly defend themselves or counter the accusations. As of this writing, the commissioners have refused to release information about the outcome of Perry's grievance.

The complaints just kept coming in 2012. In November, Carroll County House of Corrections Captain Michael Fowler filed a complaint alleging the commissioner's violated the state's right-to-know law for holding un-posted meetings and violated jail policy by overriding decisions made by CCHOC Superintendent Jason Johnson.

According to sources, a sheriff's department from another NH county is currently conducting an investigation into another complaint filed against Sorensen. When asked at their Jan. 2 meeting for confirmation on this, Sorensen did not deny that another agency is conducting a jail investigation and would only say it is a personnel matter and can't be discussed.

In other county government news last year, the commissioners decided to no longer offer free lunch to county employees. Now, according to the union contracts, only jail and nursing home employees get the benefit of a free meal while they are on shift.

Throughout the year, Commissioner Asha Kenney repeatedly blasted the county's information technology (IT) contractor, usually when he wasn't at the meetings and without any backup documentation to prove her points. Those accusations and the long list of accusations slung at commissioners by members of the audience at their weekly meetings prompted Sorensen to finally announce he was taking back control of the meetings in the third quarter of the year. As business moved into 2013, the meetings had become much tamer. And if the commissioners stick to their new plan of requiring all accusations in writing, many anticipate a renewed civility at the county complex.

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