SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Election

October 27, 2010

Anketell says disclosure of records illegal

Damian Anketell filed complaints yesterday with the Massachusetts attorney general and state Ethics Commission alleging that Sheriff Frank Cousins "illegally disclosed" Anketell's personnel information to The Salem News.

A spokesperson from the attorney general's office confirmed that the office had received the complaint and was reviewing it.

Anketell, a Democrat who is running against Cousins for Essex County Sheriff, is a former corrections officer at Middleton Jail, where he worked under Cousins from 1995 to 2005.

The information in question is the workers' compensation pay Anketell received during his time as an employee of the department. The records, released to The Salem News last week in response to a public records request, showed that Anketell left his job at the jail in 2005 after receiving more than $180,000 in workers' compensation and other benefits over the course of nearly four years.

"I elected to file these charges because I believe what Sheriff Cousins did was unlawful," Anketell said yesterday in a written response to questions from The Salem News. "It is my hope that other corrections officers injured in the line of duty are treated with dignity and respect by Essex County Sheriff Frank Cousins."

Anketell went on to ask, "How is what Sheriff Cousins did to me any different than what Sgt. Bettencourt of Peabody did?"

Bettencourt, who was a lieutenant on the Peabody Police Department, was found guilty in 2008 of illegally accessing birth dates and Social Security numbers of 21 fellow officers.

Cousins said Anketell's complaint and accusations against him have no merit.

"We disclosed payroll records because those are public records. His salary was paid with public dollars, tax dollars, and can be disclosed to the public," Cousins said in an interview yesterday. "If (a newspaper) called tomorrow about another (Sheriff's Department employee) and asked what they were paid, we would provide that info also. The public has a right to know."

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