County Commissioners Delay on Manager Hire
By MANDY LOCKE
The Dukes County commissioners stalled again this week - failing to resolve questions raised about newly hired county manager Laurie Perry's college degree.
"I'm dismayed it's taken this long to resolve the issue. It does sound like a broken record, but this will be resolved at our next meeting. There isn't any more to talk about," said John Alley, chairman of the county commission.
It is understood that Ms. Perry, an Island native and former administrator for the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah), did not respond to several requests during the commission's executive session meeting to step away from the job offer.
Questions surfaced about Ms. Perry's degree status after a verification check by a county employee in May - a few weeks after county commissioners voted 5-2 to extend an invitation to Ms. Perry to take the helm of county government. For more than two months, commissioners have extended deadline after deadline, allowing Ms. Perry time to prove she received an undergraduate degree from Northeastern University in 1977.
"We've extended ourselves as much as possible to give her the opportunity to bring the proper documentation," said Paul Strauss, a county commissioner.
Again Wednesday night, Ms. Perry was unable to lay to rest the doubts raised about her degree status. It is understood that she read from a document copied from her personnel file at the Wampanoag tribe. She refused to let any commissioner examine the document, sources said.
A Northeastern University official confirmed again yesterday afternoon that the institution has no record of Ms. Perry.
"We've not been able to verify any attendance or graduation [of Laurie Perry]. We're confident at this point," said Ed Klotzbier, spokesman for Northeastern.
It is known that Ms. Perry had presented commissioners with a student enrollment verification document which confirmed her attendance. But when commissioners independently requested a verification form from Northeastern, the document they received contradicted the one Ms. Perry had provided.
Mr. Klotzbier said the document presented by Ms. Perry did not come from the office of the university registrar.
In addition, a commissioner announced last night that Ms. Perry could not be found in the Northeastern's alumni directory, a database listing more than 100 year's worth of graduates. Ms. Perry's name was also absent from graduation programs in 1977.
Ms. Perry did not return the Gazette's phone calls yesterday.
A vote to rescind Ms. Perry's job offer Wednesday night failed by a narrow margin. It is understood that one commissioner accidentally miscast his vote. Moves to reconsider the vote were denied.
Commissioners did not officially extend a deadline giving Ms. Perry time to provide documentation. But the matter remains unresolved - and is likely to remain so for the next two weeks. The commissioners will be traveling to Gosnold for the annual trip to the seventh Dukes County town next Wednesday, foregoing usual county business.
Some commissioners said they feel the board's inability to resolve this matter reflects poorly on county government - an image already tarnished after a series of employee controversies since January.
"In the eyes of the public, it makes us look like complete fools. I could almost question whether county government needs to exist. I've said many times I believe in regional government. There are genuine things to argue over that have substance. I don't want to put any more energy into this," said commissioner Nelson Smith.
"By the continued inaction on the matter, in my opinion, it tends to compound the problem in the public's eye. If there was a government league, in my opinion, it puts [the county commission] in last place, looking up," Mr. Alley said.