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Transparency needed in matters of county health department

Washington County’s health commissioner has been ousted from the position, a board member has resigned and no one is saying why.

At a meeting of the county health board Monday, board president Bruce Kelbaugh would not elaborate on the reasons for commissioner Dick Wittberg’s removal from the board. The vote was two for and two against, with a third vote of no confidence. Wittberg had been commissioner since 2013, taking over when the department was facing a financial crisis and elected not to renew the contract of commissioner Kathleen Meckstroth.

On Monday, Kelbaugh said only that issues with Wittberg “are documented.”

The Marietta Times will be requesting Wittberg’s personnel file, as can anyone in the public, but why the secrecy? This is a public agency and a public position. There should be transparency. If there were problems with Wittberg, let us know. There should be no secrecy when it comes to matters affecting public health.

After confronting Kelbaugh about Wittberg’s dismissal Monday, board member Jim Rodgers resigned. Dr. Kenneth Leopold followed suit, but later agreed to stay on the board, which must include at least one medical doctor.

The staff of the health department also seemed to be in the dark, wondering about the future of programs and services.

“There is fear that programs will be cut and that staff will be let go,” said Court Witschey, director of population health.

The board should be more forthcoming. This is not the appropriate arena for politics or personality clashes. If there was a legitimate problem with Wittberg, say it.

There should be more answers for all in this situation. We ask the board to make that happen.

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