Putnam County HomeCare & Hospice Executive Director Pam Sager (standing) addresses members of the Putnam County District Advisory Council during Monday's regular meeting. During the meeting, the DAC accepted the resignations of three sitting health board members and cleared the way to establish a separate board for PCHH. (Putnam Sentinel/Steven Coburn Griffis)
Putnam County HomeCare & Hospice Executive Director Pam Sager (standing) addresses members of the Putnam County District Advisory Council during Monday's regular meeting. During the meeting, the DAC accepted the resignations of three sitting health board members and cleared the way to establish a separate board for PCHH. (Putnam Sentinel/Steven Coburn Griffis)

Board Members Resign

PUTNAM COUNTY — Keeping assurances made early last week, three members of the Putnam County Board of Health resigned their seats in protest on Monday. Vice President Mandy Klass and board members Teresa Hermiller and Nancy Wischmeyer-Schaub all tendered letters of resignation over a decision made by the Putnam County District Advisory Council to retain Matthew Herman on the board. A fourth member of the board, President Al Hueve, whose term expires in March, declined to put his name forward for reconsideration.

The decision to keep Mr. Herman was made during a special meeting of the DAC last Monday, Feb. 25, a meeting convened at the request of the four aforementioned board members, along with Putnam County HomeCare & Hospice administrators, who sought to have Herman removed from the board. Pening last week’s meeting all four expressed concerns about Herman’s behavior — which they asserted amounted to “malfeasance, misfeasance or infeasance” — during regular monthly meetings.

In her presentation at last Monday’s meeting, and encapsulating the sentiments of those of a similar mind, Dr. Klass, reading from the personal letter she sent to the DAC, said, “Should Mr. Herman continue on the board, I will resign my position. This is not a board that I am comfortable or proud of taking part of in its current condition.”

During the emotional and contentious hearing, Mr. Herman defended his appointment, addressing each of three primary concerns point by point, and playing excerpts of meetings he’d recorded to support his position. After over three hours of testimony, DAC members voted to keep Herman on the board by a two to one margin.

Though not unexpected, the summary loss of 80 percent of the health board’s members is cause for no small concern. With the board’s next meeting set for March 14 — a scant ten days from Monday’s resignations — the DAC, which appoints board members, and the Putnam County Health Department face a time crunch.

“Of course, my concern is my agency and us being able to do business,” Health Commissioner Kim Rieman said. “I do feel that we’ll be able to seat a new board, and I’m looking forward to working with any new board member. But our commitment is to the residents of Putnam County and continuing to do the good work that we do, and provide our services.”

Even there, in the ability of the Health Department to continue doing business, the seemingly cut-and-dried actions of paying bills, there is a degree of the unknown.

“I don’t know that we actually know everything yet,” Mrs. Rieman said. “We’re going to have to look at our resources and really look at everything that we do to determine what can continue until the new board is seated and the next board meeting occurs.”

To facilitate the seating of a new board, DAC Chair Robert Heidenescher requested DAC members to reach out to constituents, seek out possible new members, and forward their names to Mrs. Rieman. The expressed hope is to provide a slate of candidates for review by the DAC’s selection committee by Monday, March 11, and hold an emergency meeting of the DAC to appoint those members by the following Thursday.

“If we cannot get a new board seated by that time, we may have to postpone it,” Mrs. Rieman said. “I don’t really want to push it back if we don’t have to. But, again, we want to make sure we have a good board ready to go, so that way we can continue our business and continue to grow our agency.”

Health Board Splits

PUTNAM COUNTY — In the wake of open hostilities between members of the Putnam County Board of Health — hostilities which, to all appearances, centered around Putnam County HomeCare & Hospice — the Putnam County District Advisory Council approved a motion clearing the way for the establishment of two stand-alone boards: one for the Health Department, and a second for PCHH.

Two separate boards in Putnam County is not without historic precedent. Up until roughly 35 years ago, PCHH and the Health Department maintained their own boards. Putnam County Commissioner John Schlumbohm opined that some time in the early 1980s — a specific date is buried within paper records — legislation was passed placing both agencies under the auspices of the board of health. This recent action rescinds that legislation.

“We’re very happy,” PCHH Executive Director Pam Sager said of the DAC’s action. “It’s good for the agency. It’s good for our people. It’s good for our patients.”

Maneuvering for a board to provide specific oversight of PCHH began last Tuesday, the day after a DAC meeting wherein DAC members voted to retain health board member Matthew Herman. Operating solely as a resident of the county, and without any governmental sanction, Mrs. Sager solicited the advice of an attorney as to whether such a board could be established. On Thursday, all three county commissioners — Michael Lammers, Mr. Schlumbohm, and Vince Schroeder — held a brief, informational teleconference with Liz Zink-Pearson, the lawyer Mrs. Sager contacted. The gist of that roughly 20-minute conversation boiled down to ‘there’s nothing stopping you.’

“I don’t see that there would be any preclusion from you doing this,” Ms. Zink-Pearson said. “And I did a pretty deep dive into the Ohio Revised Code and went through all the health department statutes and then looked around some more and just couldn’t find any reason why you couldn’t do this.”

The issue was then raised during the DAC’s regular meeting on Monday and was met with unanimous approval.

“As you know, we were contemplating this,” Mr. Schlumbohm said in an interview on Tuesday. “With what went on yesterday afternoon (at the DAC meeting), we don’t have a choice now. We have to establish this.”

While acknowledging the necessity, Mr. Schlumbohm further remarked that growth within PCHH, particularly on the Hospice side, made such an action advisable.

“As large as that agency has grown over the last 15 years, it just makes sense that they have their own governing board,” Mr. Schlumbohm said.

Although the board of commissioners has yet to pass legislation establishing the board — the issue is slated for consideration next Tuesday — the general outline of a five-member board is already set.

“We’ve been working with Pam Sager for potential candidates for this governing board,” Mr. Schlumbohm said. “We’ll probably use a couple of the board members from the old Putnam County Health Board, just because of their knowledge in managing that board and, obviously, some new blood. We think we have most of the positions filled, but not all of them, yet.”