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October 29. 2013 8:29PM

Former Rockingham County corrections officer attempting to be reinstated after wife charged

BRENTWOOD — A former corrections officer at the Rockingham County jail whose wife is accused of giving him $12,000 for overtime pay and other shifts he didn’t work is fighting his dismissal and wants his case heard in public.

Keith Nelson is appealing his firing and has requested a public hearing before the county delegation’s personnel committee in an attempt to get his job back.

State Rep. Norm Major, R-Plaistow, who chairs the county delegation, said it is the first time in his 17 years that a county employee has sought a public hearing after being dismissed.

County Commissioner Katharin Pratt, chairman of the board of commissioners, has served for 18 years and said she also couldn’t remember any other employees appealing their cases in public.

County officials have not given a reason for Nelson’s dismissal, saying it’s a personnel matter.

Nelson was fired amid an investigation into his wife, Ann Marie Nelson, 55, of Chester, who was recently indicted on two counts of felony theft by deception. She is accused of manipulating her husband’s payroll records and overbilling Rockingham County from July 2012 until her alleged thefts were discovered in May.

Ann Marie Nelson served as the jail’s office administrator who oversaw payroll records submitted to the county’s finance department when the alleged thefts occurred.

Keith Nelson, who was a corporal at the jail, is not facing charges.

“The investigation is ongoing and it’s too early to rule out whether there will be other charges,” County Attorney James Reams said Tuesday.

While county officials have been tight-lipped about his firing, Reams said Nelson was dismissed based on an internal investigation by the Department of Corrections that was independent of the probe into the criminal case against his wife conducted by the Sheriff’s Department.

Nelson was dismissed following a closed-door termination hearing with commissioners.

Employees who are fired have an opportunity to appeal their dismissal in a private or public hearing.
Pratt said the hearing has been scheduled for Nov. 22.The appeal will be heard by the delegation’s personnel committee, whose members are the delegation chairman, vice chairman and clerk, Major said.Because the personnel committee has no experience with public appeals, a set of rules must be established and approved by both sides before the hearing can be held, Major said.

jschreiber@newstote.com


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