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Commission pays jail director $15,000 in termination settlement

July 02, 2009
OSSIPEE — The Carroll County Commissioners paid out a $15,000 termination settlement to Jail Superintendent Dennis Robinson on Monday, June 22—the day the 18-year county employee was supposed to return from a 90-day unpaid leave over a March DWI conviction.

The commissioners publicly confirmed Robinson's departure two days later but refused to comment further on the personnel matter. Captain Jason Johnson was appointed as acting jail superintendent that afternoon.

Why the commission settled with 60-year-old Robinson, who was arrested in Pittsburg on Feb. 27, has not been made public. "Our job philosophy as managers is to mitigate any risk to the county taxpayers. We feel that we did that, and that's all we can say," Commissioner Chip Albee said at the commission's July 1 meeting. "We're really limited about what we can say." While the termination agreement itself has been made public, the non-public meeting minutes providing context have been sealed.

Robinson pled guilty to DWI in Colebrook District Court on March 19. He was fined $600 and his license was revoked for 90 days. An open container charge was placed on file without finding for one year.

Shortly after the conviction, Robinson reported the incident to the commissioners, who placed him on a 90-day unpaid leave. The commissioners—in response to public inquiries—acknowledged his absence on April 29.

A settlement agreement was drafted in non-public sessions some time during the leave, and on May 27, Commission Chairman David Sorensen signed the seven-page document on behalf of the commission. (Commissioners Albee and Dorothy Solomon were part of the negotiations and have said that if their signatures were necessary, they would have signed it.) Robinson later signed the agreement on June 22, the day he was scheduled to return as jail superintendent.

The taxable settlement pays Robinson roughly three months' salary—the amount he lost during the suspension. By signing the document, he waived any potential claims against the county for wrongful termination, violations of the Family Medical Leave Act of 1993, injury, breach of contract, age discrimination, and all other potential suits related to employment. Both parties agreed to keep certain details of the agreement "confidential to the extent allowed under New Hampshire law."

The county's one-page employment contract with Robinson was authorized in January 2005, paying him $55,000 a year for working "less than 68 hours in any two-week period." On March 21, 2007, it was updated to require Robinson to work "at least 60 hours in any two weeks." He planned to retire when the contract expired in December.

On July 1, Albee said the "contract" was more of a "letter agreement," and the construction of that agreement—which included a clause asking for 90 days notice before termination—clashed with some aspects of the county's employee manual. "We weren't bound by that agreement in the decision-making process," he said.

Ossipee resident and former state representative Dave Babson, as well as former Commissioner Peter Olkkola, have been critical of Robinson's contract and whether he had been fulfilling its terms in the past year. Toward the end of his employment with Carroll County, Robinson was frequently out dealing with a family medical issue.

"I think it was evident to everyone sitting here that he wasn't working here 60 hours every two weeks," said Babson. "Since he wasn't working the full amount of time, why are the taxpayers stuck paying him $15,000?"

The commissioners said they couldn't reveal whether the insurance company or taxpayers were paying the settlement.

Reached at home on Tuesday, Sorensen said the commission was running inquiries through its insurance company, Primex. More information on the settlement will be revealed only if Primex determines it to be public information.

Martin Lord Osman
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