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County commissioners hire attorney to investigate latest grievance

June 14, 2012
OSSIPEE — Despite the griever making her 13-page complaint public, Carroll County Commissioners have chosen to hire an attorney to review the document and determine how to proceed rather than discuss the complaint in public.

"After reading the document she presented to us, it is a harassment complaint and not a grievance, so that is the way it will be studied," said Commissioner David Sorensen.

Both he and Commissioner Dorothy Solomon agreed that the recent resignation as of June 1 of the county's human resources director puts them in a difficult position, having to pay an attorney to investigate the complaint, something the director would have done if she was still employed by the county.

The 13-page complaint, 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 wrote.

Woodburn blasts fellow employees, managers, the nursing home administrator, the human resources director, and two of the three county commissioners – Solomon and Sorensen.

At the June 6 commissioner's meeting, Solomon read a prepared statement prior to the decision to hire the attorney who will investigate Woodburn's complaint. "I welcome any investigation into my conduct with regard to this hostile environment at the nursing home. I have some reluctance at hiring someone once again at a cost to the taxpayer inasmuch as the last result was less than satisfactory. It produced no change on the part of the person that was investigated and nothing could be reported to the public. I would have preferred that this had been taken on in-house with the human resources director. As this is impossible at this time, I will reluctantly agree to go along with this motion," said Solomon.

By unanimous vote, Attorney Lucy Hodder of the law firm Grath, Young and Pignatelli of Concord will be investigating the complaint.

Months ago, Commissioner Asha Kenney voted against hiring an attorney to investigate a grievance that was filed by the former human resources director against her. This time around, Kenney was very much in favor of hiring an attorney to look into Woodburn's complaint, actually seconding the motion made by Sorensen to make the hire.

A written response to this reporter's request to see the results of the grievance against Kenney was finally received. "On advice of counsel, we are unable to release that information at this time," the letter states.

Kenney, however, has attempted to defend her actions in a recent guest commentary in this paper, a move both Sorensen and Solomon said at their June 6 meeting that was not approved by a vote of the full board. "I can write whatever I want. For months there have been attacks against me. So I have every right to respond. No vote should be taken by the board," said Kenney.

Sorensen said at this time he is unsure if the county legal budget line will be overspent this year but said that it could be and that the chairman of the county delegation has been informed of that possibility.

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