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THE HANGING FILE returned by Commissioner Asha Kenney to the County Sheriff’s office on March 20 and transferred to the human resource department the next day. (Mellisa Seamans photo) (click for larger version)
March 28, 2013
OSSIPEE — It appears that at least one file that was missing from the county commissioner's office has been returned. The way the file made its way back to the county complex calls into question what else might be missing from that office.

We have confirmed that on Wednesday, March 20, County Commissioner Asha Kenney brought a green hanging file marked "Jail" to the county sheriff's department. She asked the receiving deputy to deliver the file to the county's human resources director. Apparently, Kenney had attempted to deliver the file to the director but since the director happened to be absent that day Kenney delivered it to the sheriff's department. The deputy, in turn, delivered the file to the human resources department the next day.

For several weeks and at points throughout the course of the past two years, Kenney has denied taking anything of importance from the county commissioner's office. Former commissioners have spoken out at meetings and in letters to the editor confirming contents that were in the desk left by them and inherited by Kenney.

Back in 2011, at Kenney's request, Kenney was given at least one box and proceeded to fill it with the contents of her desk. Despite staff objection, Kenney left the office with the materials. Kenney has said previously that she took nothing of importance from the office including "just a bunch of magazines." In recent weeks, after questions arose about whether state-mandated jail inspections were being done, two former commissioners came forward and said anything they had done involving the jail was in the desk when they left office. Kenney has shot back in public meetings, in letters to the editor, and in emails she is being wrongly accused of taking county property and demanding to know who is falsely accusing her of doing so.

Kenney was contacted for a comment about her sudden return of a missing file last week. Her reply was short, "No comment." Responding to a right-to-know request asking permission to view any files that were in her desk, this reporter received word a file had been returned and went to the county complex March 22 to inspect its contents.

The hanging file contained several file folders and included such things as certificates of insurance, jail bond and construction documents, and even the leftover invitations to the 2002 jail groundbreaking. At least one document had a signature and a raised notary seal on it, calling into question whether or not this is the only copy of this original document. There were no jail inspections or handwritten notes or any of the many other items previous commissioners indicated were also in that desk.

Upon hearing the news a file that had been allegedly take from the desk and returned by Kenney, former county commissioner Dorothy Solomon sent an email to this reporter stating, "My letter to the editor printed on Tuesday, March 20 in the Conway Sun was immediately answered with a letter signed by Commissioner Kenney. In it, she replied to my comment about the papers missing from the desk she inherited. (The same letter was printed in your paper on Thursday, March 21.) The words used in her letter were"...she (referring to me) implies I took jail reports from the commissioner's (sic) office which is total nonsense. I cleaned out my new desk that was full of useless magazines and newspapers, not jail reports. So, where did the reports she gave to the sheriff come from?"

We emailed former commissioner Marge Webster a photo of the file and asked her for comment. "Interesting that after two plus years of denial by Kenney she returns some files. Where is the rest of the county property that was in that desk is my question as there many more files and reports. Obviously we have proof that she did take this file since she returned it personally and that is my handwriting on those files. I definitely knew what was in that desk and I can assure you there was not gum wrappers and magazines. She has been saying people were "harassing her" when asked about this what does Kenney say now? It is disgusting behavior for an elected official. Kenney was not elected to create chaos," said Webster.

Reference guide

After more than a year of working towards completion, the county commissioners voted March 20 to adopt the personnel reference guide for non-union employees. Included in the policy handbook is one policy that is getting more attention than the others, the social media policy.

Some argue that the policy violates employees' first amendment rights while others say the policy is meant only as a guide to protect the county taxpayers against suits that might arise in employees use social media to harass or bully their coworkers. Part of the policy states that it is meant "to ensure employees use appropriate discretion on social networking sites…employees must be cognizant of how their postings may be considered reflective of the county; employees are encouraged to honor privacy rights of current and former employees; and employees must realize they are legally liable for anything they write or present online."

Though just adopted officially last week, the commissioners have had the policy to review since presented with it by the human resources generalist Deb Newlin last summer. It was Newlin who attended the March 20 meeting when commissioner finally signed off on the handbook. Commissioner David Babson had previously expressed reservation about the social media policy and the balance between setting guidelines for employees and the employees' right to free speech. "I was thinking about the constitutional rights but I think I have come to the conclusion that what we had in there is fine," said Babson March 20. Newlin said the policy is "constitutionally appropriate" and simply lays out a format of what the consequences might be if they (employees) were to violate another person's constitutional rights.

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