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BURGAW, NC (NEWS RELEASE FROM THE PENDER COUNTY MANAGER’S OFFICE) -– It is a violation of both North Carolina law and the Pender County Personnel and Administrative Policy to disclose protected information from an employee’s personnel file. In response to the recent disclosure of confidential personnel information, the Pender County Sheriff’s Department has been asked to investigate the unlawful disclosure and bring appropriate criminal charges against the person or persons responsible. Pender County takes seriously the responsibility to protect confidential information. At the conclusion of the criminal investigation, appropriate personnel action also will be taken should any current employee have participated in unlawful actions.

It is regrettable that someone chose to commit a criminal act in an attempt to disrupt the operations of the Pender County Health Department and to disparage a dedicated career public health employee. In order to create a more complete record, it should be noted that Shirley Steele’s appeal of the disciplinary action has been resolved. The evidence established that Mrs. Steele followed the written policy for responding to “Sharp’s Incidents” which had been approved by the Medical Director and the former Health Director. Neither NC law nor the Pender County Personnel and Administrative Policy allows for a suspension when an employee complies with written policy. Since it was determined that Mrs. Steele followed all appropriate policies, corrective action has been taken with regard to previous personnel actions made against her. Accordingly, Shirley Steele received her back pay for the period of suspension, and all documents related to the suspension and the incident have been removed from her personnel file.

Both Mrs. Steele and the Health Department have placed this issue behind them and are focusing on providing great public health services to Pender County citizens.

NOTE FROM WWAY: It is WWAY NewsChannel 3’s policy not to release the identity of, or information about, sources for stories.

CLICK HERE TO READ THE ORIGINAL STORY: http://www.wwaytv3.com/2011/06/17/only-3-leaked-personnel-file-shows-dysfunction-inside-pender-co-health-dept

Comment on this Story

  • The Pender Eye

    I’m sure the call to the County to request an investigation was made by Commissioner George Brown. It’s a scare tactic that County Manager Rick Benton and County Attorney Trey Thurman have used before for intimidation purposes under Brown’s direction. It’s the shifting of blame that these guys are very good at.

    The fact is…. Shirley Steele is not responsible enough to work in the medical field unless she is under direct supervision. Ms. Steele has lied, destroyed documents and placed individuals in danger. George Brown has done his best to have Rick Benton and Trey Thurman destroy any records showing Steele’s inabilities to function as a nurse. This includes judicial tampering. This went before the State and the County lied in order to settle the needle stick incident. It’s sad.

    Let’s don’t forget that it was Ms Steele who made false allegations about Dr. Jack Griffith forcing his resignation as Health Director. And let’s not forget it was Ms. Steel who also made the false allegations about the drug use by employees in the Pender County Health Dept. It was all false!

    What Shirley Steele wants, George Brown gives her. It’s a very dangerous situation and this has to be stopped!

  • OtherGuest

    Is it normal for a news organization to have a policy of NOT identifying sources of information?

  • OtherGuest

    I was hoping that the editor would comment on this.

  • Wowww!!!

    You want to know who it is now don’t you since you were exposed !!!

    No one told who those women were when they went on television with tacky wigs on and trying unsucessfully to hide their identity. Isn’t it funny how the tables turn OtherGuest. Props goes out to WWAY for sticking to policy.

  • CPC

    A cover up by any other name is still a cover up. This “policy” that Steele claims she followed materialized the week AFTER the incident, and was NOT the policy that the lab presented to the dentist on the day of the incident and was NOT the policy in the Dental Clinic. Even if this phantom “policy” was in place and it stated that the two involved go to Pender Memorial Hospital as Steele claims for the Rapid HIV test, the hospital told the dentist that day that they do NOT take blood for the health department, because the health department has its own lab… duh! So where did this leave the student and patient? The patient left and the student drove to Wilmington for a blood draw.

    A question for this county government that bears acknowledging: If this student happened to be your son or daughter, would you look at Steele’s ineptness in the same manner? This county is very lucky that this student elected not to pursue this matter, because there would probably not be a fund balance in place for us to argue over if they had. Another point: This case was settled in the court of George Brown and not disproven by a court of law. As I said earlier, a cover up by any other name is still a cover up.

    What is “regrettable” here is that Steele is allowed to commit these types of criminal acts, again and again. She knows that Brown will cover for her no matter what. Well, that is another story entirely. The truly scary part is that Brown wants to create a director of nursing position for Steele. Thank goodness that the NC Board of Nursing got involved according to WWAY, because they can’t remove their letter from her file.

    Why does this county government continue to cover up for this woman? Why do they vehemently deny her wrongdoings even though they are so BLATANTLY apparent?

  • overit

    pender county right off starts an investigation by the sheriff’s department when shirley’s records are leaked, but when the health department employes begged them to investigate the lies by Shirley Steele, Anne Miller, and Catherin Batson on TV last year, they wouldn’t do anything. If there is one thing that could be thought of as funny, it would be that the incompetent nurses reported by these women on tv , ended up being shirley and catherin!

    When the employes wanted to have drug tests after Shirley’slies of drug use at the health department, the county attorney and county manager would not allow it. Why? When the employes asked for an investigation into the anonymous letters by shirley and her nurses (who later said that shirley typed the letters and intimidatet them into signing them), would the county government do anything? No.

    But now, THIS is a matter for the police? So they want to waste our tax dollars on THIS, when they looked the other way when lives were risked by these women and they wouldn’t do anything?

    please recall these people!

  • Lucid

    Shirley Steele must be a frustrated fiction writer. First she sent “anonymous” malicious letters. When she failed to get her desired response because they were proven as products of her imagination, she resorted to pen fabricated allegations and ghost write similar letters for her people to sign. Now, I see, she is into PR writing for herself such as the biased News Release above.

  • Scott Pickey

    OtherGuest – sorry it took so long to comment back – but YES, it’s standard practice for all news organizations, at least in this country, to protect their sources.

    If we didn’t, very few people would trust us with very sensitive information. Journalists have gone to jail protecting sources. It’s just what we do.


    Scott Pickey
    WWAY News Director

  • The Pender Eye

    Jack Griffith wrote on Jun 23, 2011 7:10 PM:

    ” Topsail Beach Denizen:

    Based on the referenced newspaper article one would likely agree that I am the “bad guy.“ However, that is not true and there are facts to the contrary that are simply irrefutable. Mrs. Steele did not have a policy (protocol) until three days after the “needle sick incident.” Further, I did not suspend Mrs. Steele for not following policy, nor did I laterally transfer her to another job for not following policy. I took these actions against Mrs. Steele for not doing all she could to take care of a patient, and her failure to support a medical specialist. I am on record telling the BOH and the staff of the health department to always care for the patient first, and tend to policy later. Dr. Michelle Holmes needed help for a patient in a potential HIV case and requested assistance from health department staff. After significant foot dragging by the staff, Dr. Holmes was referred to Pender Memorial Hospital by Mrs. Steele. The hospital refused to draw blood, and could not perform rapid HIV screening as Dr. Holmes requested. The hospital referred Dr. Holmes back to the health department laboratory. At Dr. Holmes request Mrs. Baker produced a health department policy that required the laboratory staff to support a physician or dentist (any competent health care provider) when they requested assistance for a patient. However, Mrs. Baker refused Dr. Holmes request based on Mrs. Steele’s recommendation. One can spin this event whichever way they choose, but facts are facts.
    I was on medical leave when Dr Holmes notified me of the incident, and called me back to work if it was at all possible. I returned to the health department immediately after the incident. Dr Holmes and the dental student had prepared comprehensive reports of the incident which she made available to and the BOH. Dr. Holmes tape recorded the entire event because she did not trust Mrs. Steele or Mrs. Baker to be truthful. These are the facts: Dr. Holmes spoke with Mrs. Steele, Mrs. Baker and Mrs. Batson (the communicable disease nurse) and received no help after repeated requests.
    The BOH met in emergency session to review the incident. At this meeting, also attended by Mr. Benton and Mr. Thurman. The BOH questioned Mrs. Steele and Mrs. Baker, and compared their testimony with the taped conversation. Based on Mrs. Steele and Mrs. Baker’s own testimony, and on the presentation by Dr. Holmes and the dental student, the BOH found that Mrs. Steele and Mrs. Baker were not forthcoming. By an almost unanimous vote (7) the BOH instructed me to take whatever action I felt to be necessary regarding Mrs. Steele (since I left the health department Mr. Brown has removed all the members of the BOH, save one, who voted to punish Mrs. Steele): This is an irrefutable fact. I also believe that both Mr. Benton and Mr. Thurman heard the recommendation of the BOH. Mr. Benton was quoted in the Topsail Voice as saying that Mrs. Steele was exonerated by the administrative law judge; Mr. Thurman was quoted as saying this was not a county complaint, but was against the health department, one or both would have been required to alert the interim director about the hearing.
    I have worked more than 50 years in public health. I am the co-author of two college text books; I have published more than 30 “peer” reviewed scientific articles; and I am the recipient of the second highest award (Silver Medal) given by the US EPA for developing and managing scientific programs. I took the job in Pender County after I retired from EPA so that I could continue to do interesting and worthwhile programs in health care. In Pender County, I was responsible for bringing more than 5 million dollars in grant funding from private sources to the health department, creating two dental programs, securing a state of the art mobile dental clinic, constructing and renovating the dental clinic, renovating the medical clinics, and bringing board certified pediatric and adult internal medicine physicians to provide care to thousands of low-income folks in the county. I was also responsible for overseeing the 7th health department in NC to be certified, and the first health department to meet 100% of the accreditation criteria. In 14 years I never had a shortfall in the health department budget, and the county appropriation (30-35%) only increased due to county authorized pay adjustments and increases required by animal control and environmental health.
    After appointments to graduate faculties in three major universities; 30 years in public health; and 14 years in Pender County, how does one seriously believe I would jeopardize my reputation by lying about this incident? Frankly Mr. Topsail Denizen, to disbelieve what I have told you, it would also be necessary for you to believe a majority of the BOH (7), the health director, the tape recording, and the presentation by Dr. Holmes were all lies. In more than 30 years in public health I have never experienced a more corrupt administration. This administration is more than willing to lie, cheat, create an atmosphere of anxiety, and force people to its will by threats and actual firings (witness the firings and resignations of BOH members orchestrated by Mr. Brown). For the most part, since my retirement I have attempted to let the problems with Mr. Brown, health department staff and BOH members find a solution to the many well publicized problems. However, your letter moved me to respond to the flood of lies brought by this administration and Mr. Brown. Sadly, the poor in Pender County will no longer have access to competent and experienced health care, and additional cost brought about by this shortage in care will only redound to the pocketbook of the Pender taxpayer.
    Mr. Topsail Beach Denizen, this is important! Mr. Brown is attempting to remold the health department in an image that only he and his favored associates understand. Apparently Mr. Brown is basing his transformation on an extremely limited scope of knowledge and information from individuals who have their own agendas to fulfill. For example Mr. Brown believes that a nurse practitioner can provide the same medical services as a primary care physician, or board certified physician: he is either terribly misinformed or worse is deliberately misleading the public (frankly, some nurses find it difficult to accept orders from a physician). Mr. Brown has frequently complained that the dental and medical programs were breaking the county budget although this is simply not true: the county finance officer has told him this is not true, and you should look at the financial records from 1996 through 2009 (the last complete fiscal year I worked to have an informed opinion. All the medical and dental programs were self-supporting and actually provided limited financing to other poorly funded clinic programs. Mr. Topsail Denizen it is up to you and other Pender citizens to judge who is actually the “bad guy” and to make any necessary program corrections!

    Jack Griffith, Ph.D “

  • The Pender Eye

    Thanks Scott. SD

  • WTH

    It is a sad day indeed, fellow Pender County Citizens. Shirley Steele was named as the director of nursing for the health department today. It has been said for several weeks now that George Brown, Board of Commissioner Chairman, ordered the interim health director to open this position and put Steele in it. Even though Ms Parker made it known that she was not comfortable in doing this, he then told her she would do it anyway, so she did.

    It has also been said for over a year now that Brown would get Steele in the health director position in order to give him control over Environmental Health permitting to benefit him and his buddies. Guess what, as the Nursing Director she can serve as deputy health director (even though she is not quaified to serve s health director by the State). Hmmm, sounds like a back door to the health director chair to me.. I expect that we will be hearing a news release about her taking the duties of deputy health director very soon.

    Will it ever stop with this Pender government? The bullying that comes from the Chairman of the Commissioners needs to come to an end. What on earth are the other commissioners even there for? Several of them talk about what a bully George is and for the life of me I can’t understand why they all cower to him.


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