More drama at the Pender County Health Department
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BURGAW, NC (WWAY) -- Members of the Pender County Board of Health and the County Commission have decided to heighten an investigation into the health department. Commission Chair Jimmy Tate says they made a personnel decision during closed session tonight, but would not disclose what the decision is.

This all stems from health department employees accusing other employees of taking drugs, violating confidentiality practices, and improper training.

"Taking the drugs, there have been some issues. I'd just rather not go into detail about those," Nursing Supervisor for Clinical Services Shirley Steele said.

Employee drug use and other allegations sparked an investigation at the Pender County Health Department.

Health Director Dr. Jack Griffith denies those claims.

"I'm in the clinics all the time, and I'm all over the health department," Griffith said. "I would know if we had employees acting erratically. I've been around to ask several employees. Nobody knows of any drug use."

Griffith did admit a nurse-in-training put an uncapped needle into a dirty tray, but he says it's the only allegation that's actually true.

"Anyone who works for the health department who would present that kind of information publicly has done a great disservice to the health department, to her colleagues, her professional colleagues and other nurses and the physicians in the clinic," Griffith said.

Some say Steele is falsifying the other claims because she wants to be the next health director.

"Dr. Griffith and I did talk about when I finished my education, that when he retired, that I would like to apply for his position," Steele said. "That is not anything that I'm even considering at this point."

Griffith wrote a letter to Board of Health member Jason Leary asking him to step down after Griffith said Leary was bad-mouthing the health department to businesses in the community. Griffith also says Leary verbally and physically threatened him. Leary did not step down from the board.

Two agencies will investigate the allegations against the health department.

"I think that the assessment will show who's doing their jobs," Steele said.

Board members were supposed to announce which independent agencies will investigate the health department at Monday night's meeting, but they did not. We're told the announcement will be made by the end of the week.

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Is it true that you can name no names because there are none to name? Did you ever say, "SOandSO is doing drugs?" Why Not?

As someone who has had a contract with the Pender County Health Dept. I can attest to the fact that Dr. Griffith HAS said in my presence that he too had a "board" and that board generally did whatever he asked, and he expected my board to do the same. I do know that family members of pender county employees have been hired into supervisory positions that they had NO training in. As a contracting agency with Pender County Health Department we were told that we could not communicate directly with the county commissioners regarding any of the above or budget requests. We are sending a detailed statement to Ben David itemizing every impropriety we've experienced with Dr. Griffith, as head of the health dept.

then when sworn statements are taken, you'll have to stand and deliver. Hearsay, rumor, and innuendo have no place in a proceeding.

And candidly, if your contract was with the Board of Health, your contacts should have been with the Board of Health.

Ever hear of business ethics? You & your organization were not employed by Pender County. You were contracted by the Health Department of which Dr. Jack is head. He or his designee is your point of contact. Go read your contract.

And come out of the dark by revealing your identity.

Frankly, Pender County deserves better than back stabbing contract laborers; and when the dust all settles, I hope it settles on your backside as you exit the contract.

We tried to take our issues to the BOH but were told by Dr. Griffith that he could terminate our contract at any moment. We did try to go through the "chain of command" but felt Dr. Griffith made this impossible. We chose NOT to go to the commissioners or the media, but to end our contract.

What out Pender County.. First RC then Gore your next///

I can vividly recall Dr. Griffith standing in front of the Board of Commissioners (unsolicited) 2 and a half years ago and addressing the anonymous accusations of county employees. He was at that time an advocate of immediate investigation and action based on unproven statements and secretly penned letters to commissioners.

The county spent much time in the media, lost a County Manager and multiple directors, and had censorship and raised voices at commissioner meetings. The politics and drama of how Pender County does business gets embarrassing at times.

I find the irony of Dr. Griffiths position at this time quite an interesting. Maybe it’s just inevitable for this particular county's government and its leaders.

I was at the meeting. Sat near the back of room where Dr. Griffith was sitting. He did not stand in front of the commissioners at all. He did not advocate for anonymous letters. He did advocate for an employees grievance committee. I suppose two people can see different sides of the same coin: perhaps this is the problem in Pender.

has been put forth as a scape goat. That's apparent.

One thing should come from this. Mr. Tate should step down from the Board of Health or as a County Commissioner. For him to serve in a dual role is inappropriate. There are plenty of qualified county citizens who could replace him on the Board.

Get the investigation under way. Include the SBI. Get some of the weasels who appeared "screened from the camers" put under oath and see what story they tell then. Be certain they understand the penalty for false testimony.

This is not something which should drag on; frankly, if any of the Commissioners have contributed to this "controversy", the voting public should know that before November.

It is a policy for the BOH to have one county commissioner sit on it's board. It was simply Mr. Tate's turn. I've found Mr. Tate to be one of the most honest and down to earth commissioners we've had in a long time.