I hear my opponent talking about wanting to do away with dysfunctional government. I feel the same way. I refer you to the March 15th meeting of the Geauga County Health board as a perfect example of a dysfunctional board. Listen and you will hear misleading information, lack of transparency, disrespect of the public, disrespect of the Health Advisory Committee, a faulty video, an incomplete video. Moreover, if you read the meeting minutes you may agree they are incomplete. Wow that is quite a list you say. Yes I agree. Let me offer evidence. Read the following and watch the video. (I offer an index to make it easier.)
Before the video let me offer some thoughts. First, I have been told that the health department has a 4-million-dollar carryover. In the video you will hear a comment about the proposed agreement not being about money. I expected to see a case for change with graphs and charts. Yet a case for change is never presented. If the board was financially sound why change? A comment was made, “It is based on a supposed savings.” Using the logic of saving money should we outsource our commissioner’s office? But would it make sense? Why have any county departments? Let’s outsource them all. We could save a lot of money. But most people would say that is silly because the key criteria for Geauga County boards and departments is control and sovereignty and not cost savings. To be clear government needs to be responsible with our tax dollars but not at the expense of sovereignty.
I say sovereignty is important even if you have to pay a bit more for it. But I am not sure that we would pay more. (I don’t believe the claim of savings, but let’s say it is true for this argument.) What happens if we have another covid situation. Since the director and associate director in the agreement are Lake County employees and all services, other than Vital Statistics, are Lake County employees, what will happen to Geauga County’s interest? Who will be steering the boat? Watch most board meetings and you will see director or associate director making recommendations and providing direction. All those recommendations are almost always accepted, and the board moves on. In other words, Lake County values will steer our boat. Daily operations are controlled by the Director NOT the Geauga County board. Whose values and ideology will provide the compass? Funds are all directed to Lake County. They hold our bank account and write checks out of our bank account. Who is in control? I am including a copy of the agreement for your reference.
Think about this. We are told we are paying for service. Our employees were transferred to Lake County and given a raise. So we have to pay their salaries and Lake County’s overhead. We are buying our employees back at a higher rate. Where is the savings? Who determines if a new employee is needed and what their salary is? I am told that we share high-cost subject matter experts. Really? How many and what are they paid? I believe Lake County’s salary rates are 10 to 20% higher than Geauga. Let’s say we share a nurse who is paid $130,000, who determines how much time is spent in Geauga? What share do we pay? What did we pay? What are the criteria and who determines that? If there is a conflict who decides? Oh, yes a Lake County director decides. Is there a time tracking system? There are so many questions. Do you know who will answer these and all other questions. A Lake County Director. Do you see any issues with this plan?
Watch the video and answer this question. Did the board seem to care about input from their citizens? If this is the same level of care from a commissioner would that be OK? Is the level of transparency in this meeting OK in a Commissioner meeting? Did the board consider the cultural implications of their decision? The HDAC (Health District Advisory Committee) asked questions. I did not hear adequate answers. HDAC is the organization that appoints board members. Should they have been consulted? What was the legal process followed in development of this agreement? There are so many questions and so few answers.
Sovereignty is important. It is about Geauga being able to count on getting the service it pays for, knowing the organization will make Geauga County the priority in a time of crises, and one that fits with the culture. Years ago, the board hired a director that did not fit culturally with Geauga County. It was a painful experience that led to a public outcry and ended with the removal of the director. Historically the Health Board has been tone deaf. It appears that continues.
When viewing the video listen for a comment about a budget shortfall of $35,000 in 2023 that would increase to a shortfall of $500,000 in 2024. This huge change in liability raises many questions, but most important, why is there no explanation. Who was in charge when that huge liability got created? Would you want these persons making decisions in any other position? There was a comment that the agreement could not be discussed in executive session. That is correct; however, it should have been discussed in a public session and it was not. Open meeting laws require ALL decisions to be discussed in a public session except those limited items that are qualified for executive session. Listen for a comment that other options were not looked at because this person decided there was only one way. It seems to me that all options should have been evaluated and shown to the public. Is this the kind of thinking you want in a Commissioner?
To make it easier to view the video I have created a video Index – The first number is the seconds into the video. You can scroll through the video to these points.
- :35 Point of sale, which has been stopped
- 6:40 HB100 services paid for and not delivered. An attorney talks about the investigation. It results in a liability to the health board. The big question is how did the board allow this to happen for this long. I understand this creates a liability for the health board and this was avoidable. Dysfunction?
- 11:57 sec general conversation about case 35,000 shortfall annual deficit $500,000 what? Many references about a large shortfall and yet NO material has been provided explaining what this means, what was the cause, etc. Dysfunction?
- 20:17 can go after more grants because of more population. Sorry this is not correct. Two General Health districts can always seek joint funding. No specific agreement is needed.
- 21:07 Audience Questions (there were many questions and comments left out due to poor video recording and the meeting minutes appeared incomplete) — Comments included the following:
- “Selling us out to Lake County with no public input…why have a meeting when people can’t be here?”
- “Morale is down, watched like a criminal, not a good environment. Lake County will make it worse.”
- Kathyrn Witright. “as a board did anyone know this was coming.” Now all of a sudden we can’t pay our bills?
- We deserve respect. An apology would be nice.
- 42:00 Carolyn demonstrates a complete lack of caring for public questions. No need to consider options because she thinks this is the only answer.
- 42:00 How does Lake County Benefit. More power, the ability to foster an urban agenda. Geauga County sharing overhead costs. Increased employee base that they get to use.
- 45:53 Lynn Roman demonstrates a lack of understanding of Ohio Open Meeting laws. She comments that they could not discuss the agreement in executive session. True, but the agreement and all the terms and conditions should have been discussed in an open meeting. That is how the open meeting laws work.
- 58:26 The board voted on an agreement that was “introduced” by Lynn and Carolyn at this meeting. It appeared no board member read it, the public was expressing opposition, and yet they would not delay the vote so that this very important agreement could be evaluated by the board and the public. A case could be made that there were violations of the open meeting act and the agreement was shared and discussed outside of this meeting. Big questions remain.
Let me offer this link to the video. HEALTHBOARD VIDEO