Ohio Ethics Commission Seal - Putnam Sentinel

PUTNAM COUNTY — As has become increasingly clear over the course of the last few weeks, an investigation into activities at Putnam County HomeCare & Hospice is underway by the Ohio Ethics Commission. Although OEC policy prohibits the confirmation or denial of any potential investigation, several informed county residents have provided corroboration.

Allegations about just such an investigation were first aired by Ottawa attorney Matthew Cunningham. Mr. Cunningham, who was retained by Health Board member Matthew Herman in his battle with his four fellows on the board, posited a link between efforts to remove Herman and the OEC’s subpoenaing of records from PCHH last November. At that time, former Health Board President Al Hueve acknowledged the reality of the investigation, but was reticent about providing details. Then Herman, during testimony given before the Putnam County District Advisory Council last Monday, raised the issue of the investigation while defending his position on the health board. Herman later stated he was interviewed by OEC investigators on Jan. 31, and suggested the other board members were interviewed, as well.

On Friday, Mr. Hueve confirmed that all health board members were interviewed, saying, “It’s certainly no secret now.”

Information gleaned from Herman, Hueve, and Cunningham indicates an anonymous complaint was reported to the OEC alleging nepotism within PCHH. While specifics of the investigation are unavailable, the matter reportedly centers around the hiring of a therapist, Stacy Alt, and the role her sister, Hospice Coordinator Kris Bellman, may have played in her employment.

Hueve reported Herman first raised a concern about the possible impropriety shortly after joining the health board. The two men then took the matter to Putnam County Prosecutor Gary Lammers for input.

“The board went to the prosecutor of Putnam County and asked, ‘What should we do?’” Mr. Hueve said. “(Prosecutor Lammers) said, ‘You know, there’s really nothing here. Could some things have been done better? Certainly. Does this deserve, you know, criminal prosecution? Certainly not.’ That’s what Gary Lammers told us.”

With that, the board considered the matter settled. According to Hueve, however, Herman persisted.

“My comment was, ‘Matthew, if you think it needs an investigation, you’re just going to have to do that on your own

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because we’re going to take the advice of counsel here and deal with it as advised,’” Mr. Hueve said. “I’m not trying to hide anything.”

Then came the subpoenas, and, subsequently, the interviews, during which Hueve’s faith was shaken.

“I looked into this last year and I did ask a lot of tough questions,” Mr. Hueve said. “But then there was another email I didn’t know about where Kris Bellman did say, you know my sister’s going to come in and interview. It looked like it might be trying to advocate for her sister. I found this out because the investigator brought it up to me and I said I had no idea it existed. Why did I not know about that and I’m told by an investigator that it exists because it was subpoenaed?”

In an interview, Lammers stated he couldn’t estimate when the investigation might conclude. He did report that of the three OEC investigations conducted in Putnam County while sitting as prosecutor, all resulted in some manner of guidance from the OEC.

“If they feel there is some corroboration to that complaint, they’ll probably be back in touch with that entity and make a recommendation,” Mr. Lammers added. “The recommendation could be to put some protective measures in place, it might suggest somebody resign from their position, and that’s the end of it. But if they feel there’s a violation of law, then that’s when they’ll make a referral to the county prosecutor; to me.”

As for Hueve, he stated he is open to any possibility, prepared to pursue the matter to its conclusion, however unpleasant.

“I’m willing to review that whole process again so that I know exactly what the potential liabilities are,” Mr. Hueve said. “If there is something there that probably should have been done better or maybe thay say this is pretty serious. I will follow it through and if somebody did something that was clearly wrong and misled me, that won’t work in their favor at all. I will take care of that. The easy thing would be to walk away. (PCHH) is too important for that.”