MIDDLETON — Two assistant superintendents, a senior corrections officer and a case manager at the Essex County Sheriff's Department have been suspended as part of an ongoing investigation into allegations that include improperly accessing criminal records and filing false time cards.
Sheriff Department spokesman Maurice Pratt last week offered few details about the allegations, but the correction officer involved confirmed a report that he is accused of using a supervisor's password to access an electronic timekeeping system from a remote location to clock in at the Middleton Correction Facility.
The corrections officer, Michael Howard, was put on paid leave April 30 and retired a few days later, ending a 21-year career with the sheriff's department. He would not comment on the allegations yesterday, except to say that the department "can say what they want."
Assistant Superintendent Carrie Keating also is accused in the timekeeping scam and also was placed on paid leave April 30, Pratt said. She could not be reached yesterday.
Assistant Superintendent Kimberly O'Hara and her subordinate, Jason Steiner, a case manager who counsels inmates about to be released, are accused of misusing an online database that documents individuals' criminal histories. The database, called Criminal Offender Record Information, or CORI, is operated by the state Department of Criminal Justice Information Services. Much of the information it contains is restricted to law enforcement authorities, including police making traffic stops. Its use is highly regulated.
O'Hara, a sheriff's department employee since 1990 and the highest ranking of the four to be accused, was suspended with Steiner on Friday. The two could not be reached.
Pratt would not say how long Keating and Howard allegedly filed the false time cards or what information O'Hara and Steiner allegedly sought from the criminal records database. Pratt also would not say when the paid suspensions would end or what each of the four earned. The state Public Records Law dictates that the salaries of public employees are public information.
O'Hara serves on the executive board of the Correctional Association of Massachusetts, a professional association with 400 members, and won an award for mentoring from the International Association of Women Police a week before she was suspended, web pages for the two organizations show.
Pratt said the investigation is continuing but would not say whether it extends beyond O'Hara, Keating, Steiner and Howard or whether criminal charges might result.
Through Pratt, County Sheriff Frank Cousins declined to comment on the investigation.