Washington County Board of Health past meeting minutes and emails leave more questions than answers about the dismissal and reinstatement of the health commissioner, following public records review.
The board of health held four meetings in three weeks in July to first dismiss Health Commissioner Dick Wittberg, accept the resignation of board member Jim Rodgers, review a potential lawsuit from Wittberg and ultimately reinstate Wittberg as part-time commissioner last week.
Leading up to July, a review of the last three years’ board meetings and corresponding emails shows:
• Feb. 14, 2017: Board member Bruce Kelbaugh moved to approve Wittberg’s employment contract for six months, former board member Dick Taylor seconded, motion passed.
• Aug. 8, 2017: Kelbaugh moved to extend Wittberg’s contract to September, former board member Jim Rodgers seconded, motion passed.
• Kelbaugh asked that Wittberg put together a report on personnel time put towards accreditation for the next meeting.
• Sept. 12, 2017: Rodgers moved to renew Wittberg’s contract through September 2018, county coroner Kenneth Leopold seconded, motion passed.
• Oct. 10, 2017: Kelbaugh moved to add a second board meeting each month, unpaid, for informational exchange.
Minutes for the informational board meetings have been requested by the Times for review.
• Sept. 11, 2018: Failed motion to approve an ethics policy.
• Motion: Kelbaugh moved to approve the ethics policy, Rodgers seconded.
• Discussion included a statement from Kelbaugh “we don’t need an ethics policy…we would get rid of unethical employees.”
• Daniell said he “would never vote for a policy that restricted the actions of the board of health.”
• Motion failed.
• Oct. 9, 2018: Passed motion to approve ethics procedure.
• Motion: Kelbaugh moved to approve with amendments.
Those amendments have been requested by the Times for review.
• Dec. 11, 2018:
• Asa Boring spoke representing the district advisory council which appoints members of the board of health.
• Boring asked for minutes before they are approved.
• He requested a list of employees, duties, pay scale and source funding.
• Boring requested to know what contracts the board is a party to.
• He requested to know what goes into fee increases.
• Dec. 15, 2018: Boring’s requests provided for via email from Wittberg.
• “Technically I am in violation of BOH directives by sending draft minutes,” said Wittberg. “But it seemed like the board wanted this to happen.”
• Jan. 8, 2019: Monthly informational board meetings canceled.
• Feb. 12, 2019: Wittberg presented the possibility of a move to Gilman Avenue with county office consolidation due to Washington County Job and Family Services movements into the Children Services building on Davis Avenue.
• May 14, 2019: Wittberg reported to the board that a move to Gilman would not be feasible due to extensive work required to remain a compliant health department.
• May 17-19, 2019: Emails concerning a tour of Gilman facility.
• May 17:
• Wittberg to schedule tour for May 21.
• Rodgers questioned why the board would consider a move without enough money to support a full staff; Leopold agreed.
• Kelbaugh asks that the trip not be canceled.
• June 3, 2019: Kelbaugh email to Wittberg with five requests:
• Tour of health department after June board meeting.
• Hard copy of nursing department time study.
The Times has requested the analysis of this time study and documentation for when it was completed.
• Hard copy of accreditation paperwork and application submitted to the state.
Employees have stated that the accreditation paperwork includes hundreds of documents, and will still require a third-party site visit and interviews before completion with the state.
“It has an ongoing cost,” noted Jeannie Farnsworth, deputy registrar and fiscal officer for the department, on Tuesday. “The first payment on it was between $14,000 and $15,000 and then the annual fee this year before we even have the accreditation was $5,600.”
Farnsworth said she anticipates recommendations from the site visit before the department is awarded a probationary accreditation.
Wittberg said Friday that granting agencies require accreditation for future funding.
• Documentation of how daily receipts from departments are collected, by how documented and the time frame to deposit to the county treasurer.
• All sanitarian-in-training evaluations for current SIT Autumn Winters, who is currently on unpaid maternity leave.
• June 3, 2019: Wittberg reply with indication he would look for another position, noting salary already removed from 2020 general fund budget to be supplemented instead with grants. Wittberg also offered to serve as volunteer health commissioner.
Repeatedly in board meeting minutes are notes of illegal water hauling from water wells noted to have high nitrates in Oak Grove.
But according to the Ohio Department of Health Bureau of Environmental Health and Radiation Protection’s March 2019 personnel needs analysis for the Washington County Health District’s environmental health program areas, there isn’t adequate staff to track and enforce orders of the board.
That analysis states the department does not have adequate personnel for all current or planned programs, that the division does not have planned routine staff meetings and that there is not a written salary schedule.
Washington County Commissioner Kevin Ritter released a statement last week on the dismissal of Wittberg and called on the board to outline a public plan to move forward.
But as of Tuesday, Farnsworth still had not received a copy of Wittberg’s new contract to take effect Aug. 10.
The Times is also still awaiting record of the contract as requested.
Janelle Patterson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you go:
• The next regular Washington County Board of Health meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Aug. 13.
• The board meets in the conference room of 342 Muskingum Drive, Marietta.
Source: Times research.