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December 05. 2012 12:03AM

Carroll County captain says suspensions of corrections officers threaten safety

OSSIPEE - Carroll County Department of Corrections Capt. Michael Fowler says the county commissioners overstepped their authority and placed the DOC in jeopardy when they suspended three corrections officers charged with hosting an underage drinking party.

"The decision made by the Board of Commissioners has jeopardized the safety and security of the Carroll County Department of Corrections by leaving it understaffed without any recommendations on how to safety operate the facility," Fowler stated in his Nov. 20 written complaint, filed under the Whistleblower Protection Act.

Sgt. William Lewis, 26, of Conway, Officer Taylor Goddard, 21, of New Durham, and Michael Medina, 22, of Conway are charged with hosting an underage drinking party at Medina's home. The three were charged with prohibited sales of alcohol on Oct. 19, after an investigation by the Ossipee Police Department.

Commission Chair David Sorenson and Commissioner Dorothy Solomon met with County Attorney Thomas Dewhurst and Lt. Michael Santuccio of the Carroll County Sheriff's Office in an un-posted, non-public meeting after the Oct. 31 regular commission meeting, according to Fowler.

The vote to suspend the three officers came Nov. 2, when all three commissioners met in non-public session.

After the suspensions, "staff members have been forced to work 16 hours straight and report to work the following morning," Fowler said Tuesday.

Sorenson said it was the county attorney who recommended that the three be suspended pending the outcome of the case.

"It's our responsibility to manage the county," he said Tuesday, adding that whenever DOC Superintendent Jason Johnson recommends firing someone, he comes to the commission for approval.

Fowler's 14-page complaint package includes supporting documents and copies of state regulations governing county entities.

One such directive, in RSA Chapter 30-B for the DOC, states that no county commissioner shall be the superintendent of the county department. The DOC superintendant has the authority to manage all operations and administer and enforce the laws with which the department is charged.

In his complaint, Fowler asks the commission to admit wrongdoing and release the minutes of the Nov. 2 meeting.

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Larissa Mulkern may be reached at LMulkern@newstote.com.

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