EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

November 4, 2013

Fired correctional officer seeks reinstatement

Wife charged with embezzlement

By Doug Ireland

---- — BRENTWOOD — A former Rockingham County correctional officer is fighting for his job back in the wake of an embezzlement scandal at the jail.

Keith Nelson of Chester was terminated from his job this summer after 15 years when his wife, former jail administrator Anne Marie Nelson, 54, was suspecting of stealing at least $12,000 in county money.

Anne Marie Nelson was indicted by a grand jury in September on two theft counts for padding her husband’s paycheck, County Attorney James Reams said.

Although Keith Nelson was dismissed from his job, he was never charged. He has requested a public hearing before the county legislative delegation’s personnel committee to get his job back.

It’s the only recourse Keith Nelson has to be reinstated, according to his attorney, William Cahill. He is representing Keith Nelson on behalf of Teamsters Local 633.

Cahill said yesterday he could not comment on his client’s case other than to say the former correctional officer “deserves to be reinstated.”

“Once the facts are heard, it’s going to be self-evident,” Cahill said.

County commissioners voted unanimously to terminate Keith Nelson after both he and his wife were suspended.

The sheriff’s office was asked to investigate in May after a fellow jail employee noticed a discrepancy in office payroll records, Reams said. At least $12,000 disappeared between July 2012 and May 2013.

Reams said in September that more charges could be filed because it was believed more money was missing. The county attorney also said Keith Nelson could be charged.

“He could still face charges, depending on the investigation,” he said.

Reams said Friday he could not comment on how much was taken or if more charges would be filed against Anne Marie Nelson or her husband.

“All I can say is the investigation is ongoing,” he said.

When Keith Nelson appears before the three-member personnel committee led by Rep. Norman Major, R-Plaistow, it would be the first time in at least a quarter-century the panel is asked to consider a reinstatement request, according to jail superintendent Stephen Church.

“This is the first I can remember,” said Church, who has handled many dismissal cases.

Church has worked at the jail for 25 years, including three years as superintendent.

Major, who would not comment on the Nelson case, said it’s the first reinstatement request in his 17 years in office. The personnel committee would make the final decision on whether Keith Nelson is reinstated, he said.

The hearing was tentatively set for Nov. 22, but is being rescheduled.

Anne Marie Nelson was arrested shortly after her indictment, but then released. Her trial has not been scheduled.

She had worked at the jail for 12 years, handling payroll, before being suspected of theft. The case shocked co-workers.

“It was devastating, quite frankly,” Church said yesterday. “We worked very closely together.”

Anne Marie Nelson faces a potential seven and a half to 15 years in state prison and a $4,000 fine if convicted on each felony charge.