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FIRST ON 3: Pender County Health Director calls out County Commissioners in open letter

READ MORE: Pender County Health Director calls out County Commissioners in open letter
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PENDER COUNTY, NC (WWAY)-- Jack Griffith says he and the Board of Health are under attack by Commissioners George Brown, and David Williams. Thursday afternoon, Griffith fired back.
In an open letter to state Representative Carolyn Justice, Pender County Health Director Jack Griffith writes two commissioners have spread “lies and mistruths”.
Griffith had said he'd retire at the end of next month, but Wednesday night a special committee asked the Board of Health to keep Griffith as director until they could find a permanent replacement. Griffith says that request led to attacks by Commissioners George Brown and David Williams.
In the letter he writes:
"A majority of the BOH simply did not want to put into place an interim health director for a short period of time, and asked if i would stay on until the BOH selected a director. That is all there is to this recent attack by Mr. Brown, and now, inexplicably, Mr. Williams."
However the Board of Health did not ask Griffith to stay on, a special committee made that request. The board of health will vote on that request at any emergency meeting yet to be scheduled.
Commissioner Williams responded with this statement:
"This soap opera has gone on long enough. Our whole board (of commissioners) should be embarrassed, including myself. I tried to bite my tongue and let it work itself out, but apparently that's not going to happen."
Meanwhile Nursing Supervisor Shirley Steele has filed a petition with the state against Dr. Griffith.
In her appeal Steele writes:
"I am a whistle blower. The health director gave me a five day suspension without pay for an incident in which i followed policy."
Steele has hired a lawyer and, right now, has no comment.
We called County Manager Rick Benton's office several times to request the e-mails from commissioner Brown and Williams, but he did not return our phone calls.

Griffith's letter and Steele's appeal can be read in their entirety below.

THIS IS A COPY OF AN OPEN LETTER SENT BY PENDER COUNTY BOARD OF HEALTH DIRECTOR DR. JACK GRIFFITH TO STATE REPRESENTATIVE CAROLYN JUSTICE. GRIFFITH EMAILED IT TO LOCAL MEDIA OUTLETS...

Dear Representative Justice:

I’m in receipt of E-Mails sent out by David Williams and George Brown that attack the BOH and me. The emails are direct attacks on the BOH, personally and professionally, and suggest that somehow the health director is “running Pender County.” I see that you are on the distribution list for the emails. I have sat silently by while Mr. Brown has reported as facts lies and mistruths throughout the media, TV and newspapers. The most egregious of these is that there has been “…arrogance and unacceptable behavior to warrant anger and embarrassment for our county.” I would remind you that George Brown is the one who made statements on TV and reported the following:

Drug Use by the Health Department staff: Proven to be an untrue allegation by a majority of the BOH.

Medicaid Fraud: Proven to be an untrue allegation by a majority of the BOH.

Misappropriation of funds: Proven to be an untrue allegation by a majority of the BOH.

Frankly, Mr. Brown and Mrs. Shirley Steele have made numerous other allegations: all found to be untrue by the BOH. Yet the lies continue to flow. Mr. Brown talks about “…continued and disrespectful behavior,” but there are no examples that he can cite. However, personally, I can go to the newspaper accounts and the TV media to see where he has attacked me personally and he does so again in these emails without one shred of proof.

I have been lied to and at by the Chairperson of the BOH and other BOH members recognize this. Clearly, I have resigned effective September 30th. A majority of the BOH simply did not want to put into place an interim health director for a short period of time, and asked if I would stay on until the BOH selected a director. That is all there is to this recent attack by Mr. Brown, and now, inexplicably, Mr. Williams (Mr. Williams has never attended a BOH meeting; he has never spoken with the majority of the BOH; he has never listened to the evidence of rather serious dereliction of duty that the BOH has listened to and determined to be unacceptable personal conduct by a professional nurse. Mr. Williams, nor Mr. Brown, for that matter has ever had the courtesy to address me directly in other than a public meeting where I am forced to follow obvious restraints. They have never come to my office or asked me to visit with them to discuss, as Mr. Brown put it, “…intimidation and falsehoods…,” that apparently I am responsible for making----although any falsehood has yet to be specifically identified.

Now, these two people are attacking the BOH members. You were once on the BOH! Clearly, you know the civic dedication it takes to sit on that board, and the time and energy the members spend to help the people in Pender County. To have a majority of those people attacked as if they are somehow under the spell of the health director is frankly, unconscionable. To suggest somehow that the BOH is not informed is simply not true on its face: we have regular meetings and they are provided numerous materials on staffing and budget as I’m sure you will well remember.

All this “witch hunt” is going to do is make it impossible for good people to serve on the “independent” BOH. The law set the BOH as independent as you well know to keep politics out of BOH decisions. Now, Mr. Brown and Mr. Williams have taken, from the beginning, information that has been proven to be outright falsehoods and Mr. Brown has made this information public through the media as if it were the truth.

I would ask you, as a representative and former member of the BOH to ask your republican colleagues to back off this attack on me until (after 14 + years) I retire; and back off this excellent BOH before they drive these good and deserving people off this board. In all my years in public service, and it numbers about 55 years now, I have never personally been involved in such unprofessional and unconscionable behavior as I’ve witnessed with these two people. To say that I’m disappointed in their behavior would be like saying that Floyd was just a rain storm.

I have already been forced to spend, from my own resources, almost $3000.00 in attorney fees to fight these lies, and if necessary I will spend more. As a registered republican I’m embarrassed by their conduct. I am not going to be in this position for much longer, and I guarantee you that I intend to fight these scurrilous attacks on every front and in every forum from October 1st until the November election. And unlike these two people I will have facts to support my claims.

Steele Whistle Blower Appeal

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