By Steven Coburn-Griffis

COLUMBUS/OTTAWA — An investigation into alleged ethics violations within Putnam County Homecare & Hospice, conducted by the Ohio Ethics Commission and Putnam County Special Prosecutor Christian Stickan, was resolved last month. The investigation determined Kris Bellman, now former Hospice Coordinator at the agency, violated Ohio’s Ethics Law.
“Specifically, it was alleged that Bellman participated in the hire of her sister and negotiation of other benefits for her sister, thereby using her position to secure contracts and other things of value for a family member in violation of Ethics Law,” reads a summary of the investigation included as part of a settlement agreement between Bellman and Stickan.
According to the facts of the investigation, as outlined in the settlement agreement:
• Bellman — between April 20 and Sept. 8, 2017 — acting as PCHH Hospice Coordinator and Supervisor of Therapy, “… actively participated in the selection process between PCHH and Northwest Physical Therapy to hire three (3) in-house Therapists for staffing at PCHH that resulted in the hire of Bellman’s sister, Stacy Alt …”
• “… Bellman negotiated contract terms with NWPT for therapist positions and lobbied for language and/or terminology changes to NWPT’s standard contract that would allow PCHH to retain the three (3) Therapists being hired by NWPT and assigned to PCHH …”
• “… Bellman negotiated the amount of PTO time, including vacations, sick and personal time off that the therapists would receive, as well as a higher rate of pay for the Physical Therapist position and reduced hours per work week schedule.”
• “Stacy Alt was hired by NWPT on Aug. 7, 2017 as a physical therapist assigned to PCHH, where Bellman, who had been the Hospice Coordinator and Therapy Supervisor since 2013-2014, was  in a supervisory position over Alt. Bellman remained in the position of supervisor over Alt until November/December, 2017.”
• “… following Alt’s hire, Bellman continued to participate in material employment matters having to do with her sister.”
In resolving the issue, Stickan determined Bellman “… used her position to secure public contracts and other things of value for a family member in violation of Ethics Law under Ohio Revised Code Section 2921.42(A)(1), Having an Unlawful Interest in a Public Contract, and Ohio Revised code Section 102.03(D) and E.”
Per the terms of the settlement agreement — signed by Stickan, Bellman, and Bellman’s attorney, Barry Schroeder, on Dec. 11, 2020 — Bellman was issued a public reprimand and agreed to resign her position “in lieu of prosecution.” According to Health Commissioner Kim Rieman, Bellman’s last day in her post was Wednesday, Dec. 24, 2020.
Alt remains on staff, currently serving as PCHH’s Therapy Supervisor.
The agreement brings to close dramatic events which played out publicly beginning in February of 2019. A that time, now former members of the Putnam County Board of Health — Al Hueve, Dr. Mandy Klass, Teresa Hermiller, and Nancy Wischmeyer-Schaub — and former PCHH Director Pam Sager appealed to the Putnam County Health District Advisory Council for the removal of boardmember Matthew Herman, citing hostilities between the four and Herman. Though never openly discussed, Herman was alleged to have registered the initial complaint with the OEC, an allegation Herman neither confirmed nor denied.
In a special meeting of the DAC on Feb. 25, 2019, members heard evidence and rejected the appeal, voting to retain Herman as a board member. The decision resulted in the mass resignation of the four aforementioned board members, and, subsequently, former Medical Director Dr. Mary Ann Myers and Sager.
Following the seating of four new board members, Herman was elected president of the Board of Health in March of 2019, serving in that position until current Board President Kyle Stechschulte was elected to the seat in 2020.