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Kenney holding up grievance investigation

April 19, 2012
OSSIPEE — According to the chairman of the county commissioners, the public may soon learn the details of a grievance filed by one of the county's employees against one of the commissioners.

Chairman David Sorensen said April 11 that the investigation has been completed, but "not fully completed." At that meeting, Sorensen announced that the attorney hired to review the grievance to determine its merit in moving forward and making recommendations has finished his work.

When asked what the holdup is to getting the process complete, Sorensen said "we've had problems in getting a meeting with Commissioner Asha Kenney and the attorney." During the meeting he tried to finalize a time the three commissioners could sit down with the attorney and hear the outcome of the investigation.

It has been three-and-a-half months since the commissioners first announced that an employee had filed a grievance against Kenney. They have released no further details about what brought on the grievance or the nature of the grievance other than to say it pertained to the actions of Kenney.

At the April 11 meeting, Kenney said she would have to check her schedule to find out when she is available to meet with the attorney. Kenney called the process "highly unusual" that the same attorney who investigated the matter would not be presenting the findings. Sorensen agreed that is does seem unusual but referred to an e-mail all three commissioners received detailing the reason why the investigating attorney would not be presenting the findings. "If it goes outside our control, if it goes to court, it was explained. In case it goes further he may be called to testify about what he has found," said Sorensen, and added he couldn't go into it any further.

In addition to her opinion that the process is "highly unusual," Kenney deflected Sorensen's attempt to set a meeting time by accusing Sorensen with "I brought many things up and you never did anything to the employee" and "I think we should make all grievances and complaints against all elected officials public information. There was something against the sheriff's department."

Sorensen offered a Monday or a Wednesday at 1 p.m. meeting time, April 16 or 18, when the commissioners were already scheduled to be at the county complex, to avoid the need for them to make a trip down on a different day to meet with the attorney and, as a result, getting paid extra mileage reimbursement. Commissioner Dorothy Solomon agreed to the Wednesday but Kenney remained adamant she was not interested in meeting with the attorney as a board, stating she would not let the other commissioners know when she could meet but would instead contact the attorney directly.

The discussion degraded to an exchange between Sorensen and Kenney that has lately become the norm at commissioner's meeting.

"Please be a little cooperative. All I'm trying to do is a get a meeting together," said Sorensen, to which Kenney lashed out, "What do you mean cooperative? I've already been talking to Schwartz. He didn't deliver the report. Every time you're doing something else. You're the one playing games. You're playing games from the beginning."

"This is serious business. I'm not the one being investigated," Sorensen concluded.

According to Sorensen, as of Monday afternoon, a meeting between the attorney and the commissioners had not yet been set.

In non-public matters, it is up to the employee whether or not they want matters such as this discussed in public. In this case, Sorensen said, the employee has asked to keep this matter out of the public eye until it is resolved. Because she is an elected official, Kenney does not have protection under the non-public law.

Other commission news

Though the official filing period does not open until June, Commissioners Solomon and Sorensen said Monday they plan to seek re-election to the commission in November. Kenney is currently serving her second year of a four-year term.

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