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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Abusing power or following protocol? One New Hanover County employee claims her boss is harassing her, which could lead to her termination.

Dr. Jean McNeil has worked with New Hanover County Animal Control for more than 20 years. Now she fears the health director has it out for her.

“Harassment. That’s all that he has,” McNeil said of Health Director David Rice. “He uses problem employees against me to try and build a case, because he has nothing else to work with. My record is clear.”

New Hanover County Animal Control Manager McNeil claims she’s now a target and her job is in jeopardy all because she stood up to her boss.

McNeil says it dates back to Hurricane Irene. Her employees who worked during the storm were not paid emergency pay, so she fought for them.

“I went to Mr. Rice and said, ‘This is still not resolved. I need to do something else about this,’ and he said, ‘Do what you have to do.’ I told him I may have to go some place besides his level to get my people paid correctly,” McNeil said.

McNeil claims the moment she took a stand things changed. When she went to him to discuss problem employees, she said Rice didn’t do anything about it.

“These are long-term issues, things he’s known about for many years and have sought his help with these individuals before, and rather than help me, he’s taken them and used them against me,” McNeil said.

McNeil’s “problem employee” filed a grievance against her. McNeil says Rice bypassed the policy concerning how to handle this complaint and instead reported her to the state. Then he put her on administrative leave.

“The actions that he’s done against me were already moving toward something along these lines, so it really wasn’t a surprise,” McNeil said.

The New Hanover County Board of Health met Wednesday. Since this is a personnel matter, the board went into closed session. About a half hour later they returned, but no decision was made. Because the Board of Health decided not to take any action, we asked the health director whether Dr. McNeil would be returning to work on Thursday, when her administrative leave is supposed to end. Rice said, “no comment.”

McNeil is supposed to meet with Rice at the health department on Thursday afternoon. That’s when she will find out what happens next. She’s concerned she could be out of a job, but she doesn’t want to speculate on what would happen if that’s the case.

“I think I need to wait and see what happens there. I don’t want to get ahead of myself, go someplace that is not existing yet. If it becomes a reality then i’ll deal with it at that point,” said McNeil.

We will keep you updated on the outcome of that meeting.

As for the emergency pay issue, we contacted the county’s human resources department. They claim the employees who were already scheduled to work during Hurricane Irene were not entitled to emergency pay, even though we didn’t see that written down anywhere in the county’s policy and procedures guidelines.

Comment on this Story

  • Guest252525252

    A few questions:

    1.The hurricane happened in August, why has this become an issue NOW?
    2.Is it lawful of her to show personnel records of any sort on a public news broadcast?
    3.What was the grievance against her from an employee? Could this be WHY she actually was suspended?
    4. There have been more than just 1 hurricane in this area. What has happened to the employee’s pay in the past? Surely the county can’t just up and switch policies at their whim.

    We are only hearing one side of the story. Personnel issues cannot be discussed, therefore we can’t hear both sides to get a true picture of what is really going on. I bet there is a lot more to this story than what she is leading on.

  • Cindy Bossi

    Jean McNeill is a person of great virtue and principle. Bravo to her for looking after her wonderful and dedicated staff! Now to see if New Hanover County is as brave as Jean!

  • Guest1967

    Something smells alright, how about the dead dog I called animal control about for two days straight on a roadway only to learn on the second call that they were aware he was there and was already there for two days, the excuse that I got for them not picking him up was that they were hoping that the owners would find him and have some closure (really?, how sick is that). When asked if it was a health issue I was told that “it could possible be”. The whole animal control department needs an overhaul of people who truly care about animals and are willing to help an animal in need. I find too often as an animal lover that calling them in a time of need for an uncared for animal is fruitless. I have watched too many animals next door to my home die of neglect because they come out, sometimes, when called and say all is ok and a week later another dead dog. I can’t tell you how many times this has happened. I hate to see someone loose their job….but maybe a complete overhaul of the department is necessary!

  • Guest55555

    Quit messing around with Animal Control regarding your neighbors, and call the cops instead. They should investigate the complaint, and if the owner is abusing or neglecting the dogs, they can be charged by police (if they see evidence of it).

    If the cops don’t respond (or give you the run around), call the Police Chief (or Sheriff) and complain. Take it all the way to the City Council or County Commissioners if you have to (whichever applies to you). You can even contact WWAY and ask them to investigate…you’ll see the city/county get involved then. When the media gets involved, they all step up to the plate. Do it for the animals. You CAN get something done. You just have to call the right people.

  • Guest123456789

    New Hanover County Animal Control does not pick-up deceased animals. That job belongs to the sanitation department and has for many years. Someone gave you bad information.

  • Beverly Jensen

    I have known this woman for many years. She is a fine and upstanding citizen and employee. I hope these matters can be resolved concerning the harassment she is facing.

    Beverly Jensen

  • Guest hound dog

    It seems that when some people under perform, or antagonize bosses, or are just too comfortable in their jobs, and management tries to motivate, it’s harassment.

    I’ll wait for the other half of the story, I’m sure there is one.

    On another note, why are some New Hanover County employees taking 2 hour lunches at a Chinese buffet?

    No joke, using county vehicles no less.

    But don’t say anything. That would be harassing them.

    If there’s cause, root them out, and find people who are willing to work for an honest day’s pay.

  • Tax Payer

    I have been doing wildlife rehab in the area apx 10 years now. I have all the premits needed from the state of North Carolina and the US Fish & Wildlife (Federal) to do this. NewHanover AC would give out my presonal cell # to callers if they called in w/ a wildlife question, removal, rescue or rehab issue. After months of tring to work a protical on when to or when not to give my number. Dr McNeil
    got me so upset when she kept saying we do not have anything to do w/
    wildlife calls weither it is injuried or orphaned etc.. She is very closed minded to her point is right and no one elso can be. I had my
    name and number removed from the State list of rehabbers! All I was tring to explain that We do this for the animals. That we are not funded from the county, state or federal gov’t.. I myself feel that she has abused job long enough. She is highly paid by the county for what?? Somewhere 75,000 I belive. Huricane Irene was when and now she’s having problems with her boss!! I feel for the employee’s because they are caught in bad place. As a tax payer I feel it’s to fix the problems down there…

  • GU3

    Somebody should have blown the whistle on him a long time ago. Thank you Dr. Jean Mcneil for stepping up to the plate.

  • guest666

    this type of thing happens all the time to good people it happened to me as well i reported my scumbag of a lazy boss who is just as useless to society as one can be . he found out whos was behind it and used his power to get me fired because he was getting back at me for turning him in but you know what i cant wait for the karma train to run that sorry piece of butt kissing flesh right the heck over ill be waiting with the bandages…… not…….!

  • Guestheimer

    …not worry about their bosses. Do your OWN job, concentrate on your OWN performance and mind your own business. Your bosses performance is NONE of your business and his performance evaluation is not YOUR responsibility. He has others to answer to.

    Now, in the case of employee abuse, breaching of substantial labor laws or embezzling company funds, you may have a case. The question is: Do YOU want or need to put your head on the chopping block to get it exposed?

    Remember what mommy told you? “Gotta pick your battles!”

  • Guest461

    …can you? They come at you from all corners. They are out to get you, listening to your every word, watching your movements and recording your actions.

  • rightwright

    And every employer out there wants an employee who they know is going to cause so much disruption in the workplace that it derails any sense of professionalism or any sense of efficiency.
    NC is a right to work state… You have the right to work somewhere, and that somewhere has the right to terminate your employment,
    By going back into a business after doing what you’ve done, other employees will feel like they have one up on their supervisor, efficiency will go out the window and there will be a sense of rebellion that will only hurt the customers which in this case are the tax payers.
    There were other avenues legally you could have and should have taken but you went to the media, so now you have become a liability and a distractive employee, a risk to your employer….
    You’d figure a doctor would be a little smarter than that…..

    I am forced to work up to ninety hours a week on salary without managing anyone, I have to losten to stories about my supervisor’s penis and sex life, I am spoken to like a caged animal, and interupted anytime I have a moment to myself by calls on my apartment phone, and you don’t see me running to anyone screaming harassment… Why? Due to the fact that I would loose my job even though I am correct! Be glad for what you have.. I mean had…Your troubles, nor mine aren’t always bas bad as someone elses…

  • Guest112212121

    Something here just does not pass the smell test!! There are always two sides to the story and cannot wait until this one comes out. I bet the employees of Animal Control have some insight to this. Come on “only on 3” get to the bottum of it. Please send Asha, she is a hotty!

  • Guestsnc

    I wish her the best and pray that there is a good outcome. Speaking up like this at work usually has almost no benefit; hope everthing can be sorted out.


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