Health board hires administrator

Health commissioner resigns; Americorps program at risk

Richard Daniells, center, demands an accounting of employee personnel Tuesday at the Washington County Board of Health meeting, saying he can’t make financial decisions because he doesn’t know who works for the health department. (Photo by Janelle Patterson)

Without interviews of all five applicants, the Washington County Health Board appointed new administrative leadership for the county health department Tuesday.

“I think we should do interviews before we hire anyone. I’m not comfortable with hiring a person on a resume,” said Joe Mills, one of the two board members who voted against the appointment.

Dr. Kenneth Leopold agreed with Mills, also voting in the negative.

But the appointment of the retired registered sanitarian Roger Coffman, 61, of Tunnel, as the health department administrator wasn’t the only move of the board Tuesday.

Washington County Health Commissioner Dick Wittberg gave the board his resignation after the board denied the contract renewal of the certification, training and federal paperwork oversight over the Americorps program.

The board, though it narrowly voted to act as the fiscal pass-through of the funds to employ the 10 Americorps members serving as community health workers beginning at the end of this month, then voted against the renewed contract for Christine Berg to oversee the training and management of the program.

Wittberg said he notified Berg Tuesday evening, and that he would pursue other avenues outside of the board of health to fund her oversight of the program.

“It is with much sadness that I leave this post,” wrote the commissioner, who was serving on temporary appointment after being forced out of a full-time role in July, in his resignation letter given to the board at the close of the meeting Tuesday. “It is too hard to see programs that we have invested so much sweat and passion into be destroyed by you.”

Wittberg’s resignation is effective Oct. 18, a date accepted again in a 3-2 vote of the board.

The 3-2 vote was confirmed by Richard Daniell, a member of the board since 1993, Bruce Kelbaugh, who serves as the current president, and the newest board member Jeffrey E. Jones, of Waterford, who was appointed Tuesday evening before the county health board meeting by the executive committee of the District Advisory Council.

“There wasn’t a public meeting for the appointment,” said DAC President Kurt Welch. “We met by the authority of the last DAC public meeting.”

Kelbaugh explained of the hire of Coffman that again the DAC had recommended his appointment.

“He was interviewed by the District Advisory Council and appointed to the board of health before but because of politics that didn’t happen,” said Kelbaugh.

Wittberg said the appointment to the board was initiated when calls for former board member Jim Rodgers to be removed were made in the spring after a span of missing attendance.

Coffman will be on the job, pending negotiation of salary prior to Nov. 30, as the full-time administrator just four days before the accreditation site visit on Dec. 4 and 5.

“If we can’t agree on the salary we’ll get rid of him,” said Kelbaugh. “He was recommended by someone in the county who is highly respected but I”m not going to tell you who it is, but if you knew, you’d agree with me.”

Coffman said after the meeting that he most recently worked for 28 years in Lake County, Ill., before retiring and returning to Washington County to take care of his parents.

He last served the Washington County Health Department between 1987 and 1989.

That accreditation visit will also include interviews of the board of health, according to Amy Nahley, the accreditation coordinator.

Kelbaugh also encouraged the visit to continue as scheduled for December, despite the pending move of the health department from Muskingum Drive to the western side of the Muskingum River on Gilman Avenue.

Repeatedly Kelbaugh assured the board and staff present that Flite Freimann would “take care of” all required modifications of the Gilman facility to fit accreditation, clinical and service requirements of the health department as outlined by Ohio Revised Code.

Staffers said while they’re not opposed to the move in facilities, they consistently expressed concerns for being left out of the planning of space usage and modifications to the building.

Emergency response including backup landlines for fax, phone and vaccination security; record access and separation per department; reception and intake; vital statistics and fiscal/logistical operations needs were all voiced by staff as the discussion about moving facilities continued.

The board of health is next scheduled to meet on Oct. 8 at 5:30 p.m.