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Social worker files 13-page grievance with county


June 07, 2012
OSSIPEE — "There is a grievance, but it didn't follow proper channels. We are checking to make sure the individual can grieve directly to us," Carroll County Commissioner David Sorensen replied when asked at the commission's May 30 meeting if it was true they had received a grievance from a county nursing home employee.

The 13-page grievance, filed by social worker Barbara Woodburn was sent by her to this newspaper and was distributed to several other people. Woodburn indicated in an e-mail that she has no interest in keeping the matter private.

"Let it be known that I am requesting or allowing for this Grievance to be made public to assure it gets proper attention and is not 'swept under the carpet' as it has been up to this point," Woodburn writes.

This grievance comes just as another one was put to rest in which a five-month investigation was launched when the county's human resource director filed a grievance against Commissioner Asha Kenney. The commissioners, on the advice of their attorney, are releasing no information about the findings or recommendations of that grievance. Commissioner David Sorensen has stated that fact publicly, but none of the three written requests to see the report have been officially denied in writing, in accordance with the state's right-to-know law. The human resource director chose to resign as of June 1 to pursue a career in the private sector, though was not ready as of press time to talk about the details of the grievance but did not rule out the possibility of speaking "on the record" in the future.

In Woodburn's grievance, she indicates numerous times that other employees, mainly a "core group of four managers" at the home treat her with hostility and she is often given an unmanageable workload. She states that she believes it is retaliation for what happened many years ago. And across the 13 pages Woodburn blasts fellow employees, managers, the nursing home administrator, the human resources director, and two of the three county commissioners.

As Woodburn describes, "I began my employment at Mountain View Nursing Home in April 2005 in the social service department. I was fired from Mountain View in July 2005 by the county commissioners, which included Commissioner Sorenson. I returned back to work at Mountain View in July 2006 per the order of the labor board. My dismissal from Mountain View was determined to be a wrongful termination by the Labor Board which is already public knowledge and widely publicized in the local media. I returned to work at Mountain View as I greatly enjoyed, then and now, working with the residents and the families, and believe myself to be a strong advocate for both. However, my return to Mountain View was not a smooth transition back. The harassment was still an issue but I opted to stay and try to work through the challenges hoping things would settle down."

Woodburn's social worker position is not one that is covered under the nursing home employees' labor union. County personnel matters are usually kept from the public and are protected under the non-public section of the state's right-to-know law. Employees do have the right, however, to have the matter discussed during public meetings. Woodburn released the grievance to the public; it will remain to be seen if she will continue to want it kept in the public light and whether or not the commissioners will oblige.

Woodburn also alleges that despite a constant waiting list of potential nursing home residents, empty beds are not filled quickly enough; she went for years without a job description; she was not informed of trainings; and that there has been "constant meddling, interference and sabotaging of my work by these managers." Woodburn added that she "expressed concern of the unprofessional environment in staff meetings [which I am forced to attend] where the managers would repeatedly talk about drunken parties attended by the upper managers. It was unprofessional and personally offensive to me."

Woodburn charges that Sorensen and Commissioner Dorothy Solomon have known "fully what was occurring regarding the harassment and hostility in the workplace and have knowingly and willingly allowed it to continue in violation of the harassment policy." Kenney is not mentioned as a wrongdoer in the complaint and Woodburn questions why, despite asking that Kenney be included, the other commissioners chose not to bring her up to speed about the harassment complaints.

Woodburn also asks why a grievance by one employee can get immediate attention but hers is ignored. "I am outraged that another employee, HR person, made a report and the same day an investigation was implemented, yet my concerns have been left unaddressed for years dating back to my return to work in 2006," she writes.

She sums up by listing what she hopes to gain from filing the grievance.

- "I would like an immediate investigation by an impartial and unbiased investigator into Commissioner's Sorenson and Solomon's misconduct and lack of response to a hostile work environment.

- "I am requesting an immediate and real investigation, into the harassment and hostility perpetrated by the core group of managers towards myself, some nurses and LNA's. I demand accountability for those who have perpetrated the harassment and hostilities towards me and others in the workplace, which should include severe discipline up to termination.

- "I request that Commissioners Sorenson and Solomon reveal the results to the taxpayers of your so-called investigation of the manipulation of the waitlist and why the beds have remained open for so long. Please also provide an accounting of the amount this has cost the taxpayers. I request this as both a citizen and employee.

- "And, I request an immediate investigation of all of the illegalities and unethical behavior towards residents, which I reported, as well as the misconduct of employees, such as using the county van for pick-up of a child after school."

The commissioners were to hold their next regularly scheduled meeting June 6, after press time, but there was no indication by looking at the planned agenda that the Woodburn matter would be discussed.

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