June 28, 2012OSSIPEE — $17,417.50. That is the total legal expense, released this week, for investigation into the grievance filed against Carroll County Commissioner Asha Kenney by the county's former human resource director.
It was reported earlier that the cost had reached $13,000 but was expected to climb as the final work was being done and the bills tallied.
Kenney voted against hiring an attorney that specializes in employment law, indicating she felt the issue could have been handled in-house and that her fellow commissioners were wasting money by hiring an attorney. At the time, Commissioner David Sorensen said he and Commissioner Dorothy Solomon really had no choice but to hire an outside party to investigate because if he and Solomon had done the investigation it would have been perceived as a conflict of interest.
As reported last week, the human resources director chose to resign after she felt Kenney was retaliating against her for filing the grievance. The position was advertised with resumes being accepted through June 22. Commissioners are expected to review those resumes and begin the process of hiring a replacement when they meet again next on July 5.
At the June 20 commissioner's meeting, Kenney suggested the county might be better served by having a county administrator instead of a human resources director. While that may be true, said Sorensen, the commissioners are not allowed to use money left in the budget for one position to fund a new position. Instead, creating a new position, he said, requires delegation approval.
On the cloud
Rather than purchase a new tape drive and tapes, nursing home computer record storage will now be "on the cloud." It took a couple of meetings for the commissioners to agree but finally voted 2-1 to purchase a subscription to an online backup service as recommended by the county's IT contractor. Kenney voted against it. It was not the idea of cloud storage or the company chosen to provide the backup service, but rather that the IT contractor, John Rich of Cybertron, made the recommendation. "I don't like Mr. Cybertron arranging it. I don't know what kind of deal he has," she said.
As the technology world advances, cloud storage is becoming more common. Instead of relying on employees to change the backup tapes and relying on equipment that has the possibility of failing and causing data to not be backed up or resulting in data loss, the movement seems to be towards cloud storage. This type of storage is available through the internet. Information saved on computers is transmitted through the internet to computer servers in secured vaults in separate locations across the country, explained Ed Comeau of Brookfield, at the commissioner's meeting. He urged commissioners to go ahead and buy into the new technology and that it is a safe way to store computer files.
Holding up his checkbook, Sorensen announced at the June 20 meeting that he was going to write a check that day to reimburse the county for travel expenses incurred when he traveled to conferences in Sante Fe, New Mexico and Washington, D.C. Sorensen currently serves as the president of New Hampshire Association of Counties. As president, he explained, he receives $4,000 in reimbursement annually for traveling to National Association of Counties conferences. Sorensen found out that rather than asking him directly, Kenney had called the NHAOC asking questions about his travel account and how the reimbursements worked. At the June 13 commissioners meeting Kenney used a line she often uses and accused Sorensen of "playing little games" and said she made some phone calls because Sorensen had said he was going to reimburse the county but hadn't yet.
She also said he lied during a commissioner's meeting when he announced during a meeting that he had to use the county credit card to pay his registration dues for the conferences because NHAOC does not take credit cards. What he actually said during that meeting, he said, was that he was having trouble completing the registration from his home using his personal credit card so the registration was charged to the county card.
Sorensen paid for his airline flight and lodging at the conferences. Sorensen said that once expense reports are submitted to NHAOC, they issue a check to the county or to him until the $4,000 is used up. He said there are other conferences he plans to go to this year and if the $4,000 is spent money from the commissioner's training and education line will be used to offset those costs. Kenney took issues with that saying Sorensen was elected to be a county commissioner and the county should not be footing any part of the bill for his to attend national conferences as president of the national organization.
N.H. State Representative David Babson who has, on several occasions in recent years, combed through county credit card records, came to Sorensen's defense. "Of the many times I have gone over the statements for the credit cards and you have used the county credit card I have found you reimburse. And to leave the impression you haven't or you delay is just wrong," said Babson. He added that Sorensen should not be paying any of the expenses out of his own pocket. "You are representing us. You're not going down there for fun and games," said Babson.
In light of recent events that included the grievance filed against Kenney and a 13-page workplace harassment complaint filed by a nursing home social worker, commissioners here are mandating that all employees complete harassment policy and procedure training, grievance procedure training, and "Getting Along 101" training. The county's insurer Primex held trainings in 2009 and 2010. Commissioners are now recruiting help from the newly-hired human resources assistant to do the training. Sorensen said the commissioners will be taking the training as well to which Kenney argued, "The commissioners are not employees."
At the June 20 meeting, a right-to-know request given to commissioners by this reporter was met with accusations by Kenney. The request asks for copies of three e-mails, budget information, and release of some non-public minutes. After Sorensen read the request aloud, Kenney's first comment was "What is Mellisa Seamans up to?" "What is she up to? It's the right-to-know law," responded Sorensen. Kenney said if this reporter knew about the documents, she must already have them and therefore Kenney didn't need to look for them. "It's a witch hunt. They are after Commissioner Kenney. They have an agenda. I've never seen a reporter with an agenda…I have no time to play these little games…Two weeks ago you were out of order coming in here and asking only specific questions. What is your next question? When am I going to the bathroom? You can ask questions but you need to know I am elected to represent the taxpayers and to ask certain questions is out of line," Kenney told this reporter.
"There is a right-to-know law and we are required to answer the questions whether they are relevant or not," said Sorensen.
One of the e-mails requested dates back to Spring 2011 may no longer be available. There was discussion about e-mail being treated like public records and available for public review and not deleted. Steve Brown of Wakefield said he never received an e-mail that he requested under a right-to-know request and was told it had been deleted as well, calling into question the current county policy of how to best archive county-business related e-mails. Sorensen and Solomon both announced they will no longer be using their home computers and personal e-mail for doing county business. Anyone wishing to e-mail them should do so by sending a message through the comment section of the county's website at www.carrollcountynh.net. Kenney said the problem is that commissioners do not have computers at the county complex, forcing her to use her personal e-mail to conduct county business at home and her personal computer to write the non-public meeting minutes at home. "The commissioners need computers," she said.
Other county news
The nursing home will be conducting an LNA course, likely in September. Home administrator Sandi McKenzie said there is a lot of interest and though the class will only be able to accommodate about eight students, about 30 phone calls from those interested have already been received. Students from the vocational program at Kingswood Regional High School worked at the nursing home during their LNA course during this past school year, a program that went very well, said McKenzie. A couple of students from that program will be working at the home this summer.
Kenney asked that e-mail addresses for all county delegates and county commissioners be added to the county Web site as well as budget information
Commissioners voted 3-0 to add a governmentoversite.com link on the county website, www.carrollcountynh.net. For the past 14 months, Ed Comeau has been regularly attending meetings at the county complex and videotaping those, including delegation, commission, and subcommittee meetings. Those recordings can be viewed on his Web site. Babson spoke in favor of adding a link to Comeau's site on the county site. "He provides an invaluable service at no cost to the county. He deserves all the credit in the world," said Babson.
Kathleen Maloney, county commission candidate and current Ossipee selectman, presented a list of very technical concerns that she has with the county's current IT contract. Sorensen asked for a copy of her list of concerns and said the commissioners would look into the concerns and get back to her. Maloney said she has written the last two ambulance contracts for Ossipee and therefore is very familiar with contracts and does not think the county's IT contract was properly done.