National Guard members say they’re disappointed with state report on Springfield prison

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(Host)    A state investigation found no evidence that the state’s prison in Springfield discriminated against members of the National Guard who were working there. 

As VPR’s Nina Keck reports, guard members involved say they’re disappointed – but not surprised.

(Keck)   Tim Nolan and Daniel Brown were working as temporary corrections officers at the Springfield prison earlier this year.   They and several other guard members say once they informed their supervisors they were being deployed to Afghanistan, their careers at the prison went downhill.   Nolan alleges he was repeatedly passed over for promotion to a full time position.    Brown is suing the state, saying he was wrongfully fired.   Vermont’s Agency of Human Services, which oversees the Corrections Department, ordered an investigation.   Agency Secretary Rob Hofmann says after reviewing the 120-page report, he believes the allegations are unfounded. Tim Nolan and Dan Brown shake their heads.

(Nolan)   I don’t know how an agency can investigate its own agency.   They’re not going to investigate and then self admit and lay blame upon itself."

(Brown)    "My response is show me the reports."

(Keck)   State officials wouldn’t go into specifics about the report and say it won’t be released publicly because it contains confidential personnel information.   But they stand behind the findings.  

Tim Nolan says he showed the state investigator email after email that prison officials sent out concerning promotions and when they occurred.   

(Nolan) "The chain is important because it shows that up until we notified them that we were leaving, the hiring process from temporary to full time staff was congratulations, we just promoted you.  That was it.  Then we notified them and instantly there was this new selection process to show that they were having some way to justify the weeding out of guardsmen."

(Keck)   State officials, however, have pointed out that in November, a statewide memo went out reminding all state agency officials to conduct more thorough interviews when hiring or promoting in any capacity.   Tim Nolan questions that because he says a guard member who worked as a temporary corrections officer in Chittenden County was promoted without any interview.

(Nolan) "They just walked up to him and said you’re promoted.   So if it’s a statewide all encompassing policy – then why is it only in this one facility with guardsmen that they’re doing it."

(Keck)    Tim Nolan says that while he’s disappointed with the state investigation, he has no regrets about speaking out.

(Nolan)  "At the end of the day right or wrong when this all comes out – I’ll still have my integrity.

(Keck)   Nolan filed an official complaint with the US Department of Labor – one of four complaints still under investigation.   Daniel Brown is looking forward to his day in court.   If it comes after November, however, he’ll be in Afghanistan and will be unlikely to attend.  

For VPR News, I’m Nina Keck.

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