Burgaw, NC (WWAY) - A health department divided. That's how an independent review described the Pender County Health Department. Monday night the Pender County Board of Health held a special meeting to discuss the report sparked by employee allegations.
A former health department director, Wanda Sandelé discussed some of the findings from her assessment of the Pender County Health Department. The review investigated claims of drug use, possible HIPAA violations, discrimination, and overall management of the department. Sandelé found the Health Department provided good public health service but is experiencing difficult times because the administration did not properly handle conflict within the department.
Then the board of health went into closed session. Dozens of employees who showed up to hear the discussion were forced to wait outside. And wait they did. The board asked questions of Sandelé, Health Department Director Jack Griffith and Administrator Gwen Smith for nearly four and a half hours.
County Commissioner Chair Jimmy Tate became so frustrated, he left the meeting. Later Tate said he expected the board to take a leadership role and move forward. Instead he says they, "blamed the commissioners for the current situation at the health department". Tate said he will consider stepping down from the Board of Health.
Several employees stayed throughout the night to show their support for Dr. Griffith. But some say the situation should never have come to this point.
It's like you have spouses quarreling and there is an attempt for one to win the argument," said Dr. Benjamin Akiwumi "The purpose shouldn't be to win the argument. The purpose should be to maintain peace and harmony in an effective environment.
Just before mid-night the board decided they would not take any action.
The board of health would not comment on the meeting or where they will go from here. The health department will undergo two more interventions. The first will involve training in conflict resolution and the Gillings School of Global Health at UNC Chapel Hill will perform an extensive assessment.