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By Michele McPhee
Thursday, September 1, 2005 - Updated: 03:14 AM EST

Kathleen M. Dennehy, the state's first female Department of Correction commissioner, said yesterday she is being harassed by union members who have slashed her car tires, made personal threats and followed her around with a giant inflated rat to undermine her push for more prison accountability.

In an interview at DOC headquarters in Milford, Dennehy said she left a prison in recent weeks only to find her car tires slashed.

She says she has received telephone and written threats, but shrugged off any harassment as part of a difficult, dangerous job.

``Accountability is everything in what we do,'' Dennehy said, adding that her relationship with the Massachusetts Correction Officers Federated Union was fractured last year when she was forced to discipline six correction supervisors accused of abusing a handcuffed prisoner. ``My focus is to improve the performance of the organization and that can be threatening to folks,'' she said.

Union president Steve Kenneway yesterday denied any union member vandalized Dennehy's car or threatened her, calling the accusations ``absurd'' and ``childish.''

``She needs to grow up,'' said Kenneway, whose union demanded her resignation in a letter to Gov. Mitt Romney in February.

The tension between Dennehy and union officials worsened this week after images from a prison videotape appeared in the Herald depicting killer inmate Joseph L. Druce apparently re-enacting the vicious 2003 murder of jailed pedophile priest John J. Geoghan.

Dennehy said she believes an employee at the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center in Shirley, where both were jailed, made an ``unauthorized, pirated recording'' of Druce's ghastly pantomime. She called the case ``unconscionable.''

Union officials have faulted Dennehy, saying the DOC should have possession of any and all security footage in the prison system, and not the correction officers.

``We believe she is responsible for any tapes released,'' Kenneway said. ``This is another incident that shows she is unable to manage this department.''
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