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Jefferson County Board uninvited from former undersheriff’s retirement party

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What would Emily Post, famous maven of manners, have to say about uninviting 15 people from a party?

It’s a good question, considering it just happened to the entire Jefferson County Board of Legislators.

In an email sent Tuesday, all 15 board members were uninvited from the retirement party of Andrew R. Neff, the county’s former undersheriff, and two retiring deputies, Peter R. Barnett and Joseph D. Murtha.

“Invitations to the Neff, Barnett, Murtha retirement party were sent to some of you in error. Please disregard the invitation. If you have already mailed a check, it will be destroyed and returned to you,” the email read.

It is signed “ARNeff” and was sent by the former undersheriff, whose career came to an abrupt end when he was suspended from duty in October after he was accused of having a relationship with a convicted felon in violation of a department policy.

Mr. Neff retired with full pension and benefits in February. He declined to comment to the Times about his email to legislators.

The party, which is being held July 10 at the Montague Inn in Lewis County, also will recognize deputies Barnett and Murtha as they bring their careers with the department to a close. Together, the three men have more than 75 years of service with the Sheriff’s Department.

Mr. Neff said the invitations were sent to legislators by accident.

Board Chairwoman Carolyn D. Fitzpatrick, R-Watertown, said that board members initially were invited by Deputy Barnett.

“We were very, quite frankly, very disappointed by the comment,” she said of Mr. Neff’s email. “I was so dumbfounded and saddened by his two sentences.”

Mrs. Fitzpatrick said that deputies Barnett and Murtha are good friends with many of the legislators and that the board wanted to show its appreciation for all that the deputies have given to the county.

But she acknowledged that the situation is awkward.

“Mr. Neff, he too put in many years with the county, and I would have liked to thank him too, but he chooses not to receive our thanks. And I understand,” she said. “Whether or not we are invited to the party, I believe these men realize how thankful we are for their service.”

A state police investigation into Mr. Neff’s actions has not yet been completed.

His accuser, Michelle R. Bowens, was sent to state prison for three years in January after pleading guilty to second-degree attempted forgery and fourth-degree criminal possession of stolen property.

She previously was sentenced to 1 to 3 years in prison in December 2007 and was released in September 2008, which is when she claims her relationship with Mr. Neff began.

As far as Emily Post goes, according to the 18th edition of her book on etiquette, “Informal and casual invitations can be recalled by phoning or emailing or sending a brief note if there’s time.”

So it appears this case is covered.

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