Probe finds Hampshire County jail official violated state law in sheriff primary election

  • Hampshire County Jail and House of Correction, Wednesday, Mar. 25, 2020.

Staff Writer
Published: 5/16/2023 5:23:38 PM

NORTHAMPTON — A consultant has found that a former deputy superintendent at the Hampshire County jail violated state law by engaging in political activity in the run-up to September’s primary election and should not be allowed to work again at the sheriff’s office.

In a heavily redacted report that Sheriff Patrick Cahillane posted Thursday to the Hampshire County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page, consultant Daniel Bennett, of Comprehensive Investigations and Consulting LLC, found that Barbara Marean used her official position in an attempt to intimidate a jail employee who supported one of Cahillane’s challengers and removed and tampered with campaign signs in someone else’s yard.

Marean resigned in late August, shortly after the Gazette reported that she was implicated in a Southampton police report of a suspicious vehicle outside the home of a jail employee.

Marean, a 30-year employee of the Hampshire County Sheriff’s Department, had also aroused suspicions among colleagues that she was stalling preparations for a pending Department of Corrections audit for political reasons, according to the report.

The report found that Marean acted entirely on her own behalf, and that Cahillane had played no part in directing Marean’s actions or pressuring her in any way.

Marean told the consultants that she had experienced several challenging life events over the previous year and that she was “deeply ashamed” of her behavior.

Contacted by phone Tuesday, Marean said she was cleared by the State Ethics Commission before hanging up.

Just a few weeks before a September primary between Cahillane and challengers Caitlin Sepeda and Yvonne Gittelson, Cahillane accepted Marean’s offer to resign and retire.

Reports filed by Southampton Police state that a jail employee and his wife observed a woman in a black Ford SUV outside their Southampton house on two occasions. The driver allegedly took cellphone pictures of their yard, where they displayed a Sepeda sign.

Police determined the license plate was registered to the state’s Executive Office for Administration & Finance; the sheriff’s office is a state-funded agency. An officer wrote that the jail employee reportedly saw the vehicle in the jail parking lot, with the same license plates, on Aug. 9 and “the operator was Barbara Marean.”

In a statement at the time, Cahillane said that, “[T]his is not who I am or who I have ever been. I will never tolerate this conduct from any staff or campaign member.”

Cahillane went on to win the primary in September,   t hen defeated Gittelson, who ran in the general election as a write-in candidate, in November. His current term is for six years.

Cahillane did not respond to a message left for his spokesman Tuesday.

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