Bridy: Northumberland County Prison officials lied about visitor's list issue
SUNBURY - Two Northumberland County commissioners are calling for the resignation of county prison Warden Roy Johnson and Commander Brian Wheary for allegedly lying about a reporter's name not being on the visitor's list of accused murderer Miranda Barbour.
Commissioner Stephen Bridy, the prison board chairman until reorganization of the board earlier this week, said Friday he has gathered enough evidence to show the two employees were intentionally deceitful and he plans to meet with the county solicitor Monday morning to determine the next course of action.
"They blatantly lied to me. I cannot have people spew falsehoods, especially when I was prison board chairman," Bridy said. "If they lie about something as miniscule as this with no reason to lie, what else are they not telling the truth about?"
If a person lies to their boss, they should go, Bridy said.
However, Johnson said Friday he has no plans to resign, and that he hadn't yet spoken with anyone from the prison board about the situation.
"I don't have enough information to make any kind of rational decision. The only information I have is what I saw in the newspaper. I'm waiting for them (the prison board members) to contact me," Johnson said.
District Attorney Tony Rosini, another member of the seven-member prison board, said he doesn't categorize Wheary and Johnson's actions as a lie.
"I just don't think they had all the information," he said.
He plans to ask the warden to review the situation to determine what actually occurred before "we start making accusations against people and their motives," he said.
'They must resign'
At Wednesday's prison board meeting, Johnson addressed Gary Grossman, publisher of The Daily Item, who questioned why reporter Francis Scarcella was denied a visit with Barbour despite being on her visitor's list. Johnson said separate procedures exist for allowing inmates to see visitors such as family members or friends and granting them permission to talk with the media.
The warden told Grossman Scarcella was denied the visit because of security reasons.
However, that's not what Bridy said he was told when he asked the warden about Barbour's list.
When the commissioner first asked Johnson and Wheary about Scarcella, he was told he was not on the list and that a policy existed for media, Bridy said.
"I've had these guys' backs for two years. I will continue to have their backs if they don't lie to me. If you lie to me, and then I lie to the press, there's a problem," he said.
Commissioner Chairman Vinny Clausi agreed.
"They must resign. We will not rest until these two individuals resign," he said.
Clausi and Bridy said such behavior opens up the county to liability, especially in such a high-profile case.
"We cannot afford to get sued because of stupidity of the high level management," Clausi said.
If they don't resign, Bridy said a public meeting of the prison board would be called and their continued employment would be subject to a vote.
Commissioner Rick Shoch did not return a call Friday seeking comment.
Not cleared for anyone
Johnson said Barbour, charged along with her husband, Elytte Barbour, in the Nov. 11 slaying of Troy LaFerrara, 42, of Port Trevorton, is on non-disciplinary restrictive status, which means she isn't allowed visits from anyone.
While she may have had a list, it hadn't reached the proper people for approval by the time Scarcella came to the prison Tuesday, he said.
Normally, inmates request visitors by putting their names on a sheet of paper, which is provided to the work release coordinator and each individual name is checked. Once that happens, the list is forwarded to either Johnson or Wheary for further approval, the warden said.
According to Johnson, the process for Barbour's visitors hadn't even gotten that far by Wednesday's meeting.
"We're not even sure if her list was in the office. We're not sure when it showed up in the office, whether it was Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday," Johnson said.
'Error on my part'
He has since seen the request and noted Scarcella's name was third on Barbour's list.
Johnson said it was "an error on my part" to not check whether separate policies existed for media before making a statement to that effect.
"No one was lying or hiding anything," he said.
Johnson said Wheary was not at work Friday, but that his absence was unrelated to the controversy.