BEDFORD — Bedford County Correctional Facility’s warden and a top aide were suspended Monday by the county’s commissioners – and the state Department of Corrections has stepped in to oversee the jail’s operations, officials confirmed.
County President Commissioner Josh Lang said “operational concerns” prompted the board to place Warden Troy Nelson and deputy Rocky Beranazzoli on leave and that the board itself reached out to the Department of Corrections to assess prison operations in the aftermath.
The board could not discuss specifics related to the suspensions, but it isn’t a COVID-19 situation, Lang said.
He described the matter as a personnel issue and declined comment when asked if the investigation was considered to be a criminal matter.
As of Monday, both men were suspended with pay, the board confirmed, while the state looks into those operational concerns, Lang and fellow Commissioner Deb Baughman told The Tribune-Democrat.
“As the county, we believed it was best to contact the (Department of Corrections) which has conducted these reviews recently, including in Blair County, to do a complete 360-degree review of the facility,” Lang said, noting the board is committed to having a “well-run” facility.
“And we’re very confident in the state’s ability to be able to complete that review and help us identify and fix any problems,” he said.
Susan McNaughton, Department of Corrections spokeswoman, confirmed that Bobbi Jo Salamon has been appointed by the state to serve as acting warden for the next 30 days while the department reviews the prison’s operations.
Salamon has spent decades working for the state Department of Corrections, first as a psychological services specialist and in recent years as deputy superintendent at several locations. She currently serves in that role at SCI-Houtzdale in Clearfield County.
The commissioners board indicated they first reached out to the state Corrections Secretary John Wetzel earlier this month seeking Department of Corrections support in assessing the 130-inmate jail’s operations.
The board did not specify what spurred the move, but Baughman said the county is going to await the state’s findings before deciding on any changes that might be warranted.
“We want to make sure our procedures are being conducted and our policies are being adhered to,” Lang said. “And the (Department of Corrections) is going to look at everything, including protocol and practices and how to go about operations day-by-day, shift-by-shift and administrator to employee.”
After a thorough assessment has been conducted, DOC officials will provide a report outlining any recommendations to the county commissioners.
McNaughton and Lang said Wetzel, Salamon and a few other DOC officials met with the county and prison employees earlier Monday.
Afterward, they toured the prison, she said.
They said the board informed the president judge, prison board, District Attorney Leslie Childers-Potts and the correction facility’s staff of their moves Monday.
Terms of Salamon’s appointment will be part of an intergovernmental agreement between the sides that authorizes the DOC to assess operations, the board wrote.
Salamon’s salary will be reimbursed by the county, the commissioners said.