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New Hanover Animal Control mgr. claims health director harassing her for blowing the whistle

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.

We contacted the Health Department. Rice was unavailable. Deputy Health Director Joshua Swift said, “The board of health is investigating. I can’t provide any further comments.”

McNeil says the Board of Health usually handles health issues and budget concerns in the community. When it comes to administrative oversight, she says Rice doesn’t have any.

The Board of Health meets tomorrow morning. We’ll keep you updated.

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