The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

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January 11, 2014

Jail chiefs shun call to resign

Clausi: Leaders must leave jobs in days in inmate visitation case

SUNBURY — Northumberland County Prison Warden Roy Johnson and Cmder. Brian Wheary ignored county Commissioner Steve Bridy’s instructions to resign from their posts as of Friday after they allegedly misled their superior over an inmate’s visitation list and policy regarding media access to the lockup.

After learning Johnson and Wheary had not agreed to quit, Commissioner Vinny Clausi said that come Monday, they will have 48 hours in which to clear out of the jailhouse.

“If they don’t want to quit, then so be it,” Clausi said. “We can’t keep people here who lie to their superiors.”

Johnson on Friday said he was not stepping down from his $60,000 post.

“I haven’t heard from Commissioner Bridy,” he said. “All I know is what you printed in the newspaper and I plan on staying until I hear from him.”

Bridy had not heard from Johnson or Wheary on Friday.

“No problem,” Bridy said. “I gave them a chance and now I will do whatever I need to do to follow the proper steps.”

The problem began Tuesday, when Wheary, who earns $37,000, could not explain why a reporter from The Daily Item was denied access to the prison to visit an inmate.

“Because,” he said at the time.

The reporter was listed on murder suspect Miranda Barbour’s visitation sheet. The 19-year old Selinsgrove resident sent a Jan. 3 letter to The Daily Item stating she placed the name of the reporter on her visitation list and that the reporter needed to “set up the rest.”

When the reporter attempted to gain information on the visitation policy at the jail, Wheary asked for the name of the inmate and when told it was Barbour, replied: “No.”

Questioned as to why, Wheary replied: “Because.”

The Daily Item contacted Bridy, then-prison board chairman, to inquire about the jail’s visitation policy.

Bridy responded he would check. Less than an hour later, he called the newspaper and said the reporter’s name was not listed on the visitation sheet. Bridy also said he would provide a copy of the written policy for media visiting the jail.

“I spoke to Wheary and Johnson and they both lied right to my face,” Bridy said. “(Johnson) said there was a policy and that the reporter was not listed.”

Bridy said he thought something was not right.

He decided to push until he received a copy of the inmate’s visitation list and was shocked to learn that the reporter’s name was listed third on the sheet. That name was removed about three hours after Northumberland County public defender Ed Greco left the jail and spoke with Barbour, whom he is representing.

“This is why I went public,” Bridy said. “I can’t trust their (Wheary and Johnson) leadership inside the prison. I asked simple questions and they lied to me. If they are doing something wrong, I will find out. I have irrefutable evidence that they lied and that is unacceptable. They made me perpetrate those lies to the media.”

Johnson acknowledged Thursday the reporter’s name was listed on the sheet, but the list wasn’t processed — so it didn’t really exist, he said.

Clausi, who has been skeptical of the prison for many months, said: “I am behind Bridy 100 percent. I have received other information regarding this and I am not happy with what I am hearing. Everyone talks about us getting sued all the time and they say it’s our fault, but the truth is these two (Wheary and Johnson) lied to their boss and then they tried to cover their tracks.”

Several other county officials may have also played a role in the denial of media access to the prison on Tuesday, Clausi said.

Clausi said he has been in contact with several other county employees and officials and said he was shocked to learn of other outstanding circumstances surrounding the prison.

“I have gathered several pieces of information,” Clausi said. “Documented information. These people know who they are and what they tried to do to cover things up. I will be speaking to each of them.”

Bridy said he would immediately call the media after a decision is made.

 

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