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Sharpe Hospital employee arrested; union claims harassment

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A longtime employee at Sharpe Hospital in Weston was suspended and arrested this week for allegedly making terrorist threats.

However, West Virginia Public Employees Union UE 170 field representative Gordon Simmons said Wednesday he believes Ronald Morris is the victim of harassment by supervisors at the state psychiatric hospital.

According to Simmons, Morris was talking to two co-workers in the hospital dining room Tuesday afternoon when he remarked, "I can't believe someone hasn't come in here and cleaned house."

Simmons said Morris was referring to management issues at the hospital, which among other actions, resulted in Kanawha Circuit Judge Duke Bloom last month threatening to hold the state Department of Health and Human Resources in contempt of court if it does not comply with a 2009 court order to give pay raises to employees at Sharpe and at Mitchell-Bateman Hospital in Huntington.

Shortly after, according to Simmons, Morris was called to meet with Janice Woofter, director of nursing at Sharpe Hospital.

At the meeting, Woofter reportedly accused Morris of threatening acts of violence at the hospital, and suspended him and sent him home, Simmons said.

Shortly after, he was arrested at his home by State Police troopers and charged with making terrorist threats without intent to commit. He was incarcerated in Central Regional Jail on $60,000 bond.

A trooper at the Weston detachment confirmed Morris' arrest, but did not have access to the arrest report Wednesday afternoon.

Simmons said Morris was fired two years ago, but successfully appealed his case before the state Public Employees Grievance Board, and got his job back. Simmons said Morris has been harassed by Sharpe supervisors ever since.

He said Morris asked to have a union representative present prior to his meeting Tuesday with Woofter, but the request was denied.

"It's just outrageous," Simmons said of Morris' suspension and arrest. "He said somebody should clean house -- he didn't threaten to do anything himself."

DHHR spokeswoman Marsha Dadisman said she could not comment, since it is a personnel matter.

Reach Phil Kabler at philk@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1220.


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