Health board terminates employee after dispute

By Alberta Stojkovic - The Sentinel

MOUNT GILEAD — The Morrow County Board of Health is seeking to move forward after a year-long personnel dispute concerning Environmental Health Director Brian Benick.

At their meeting Monday, Nov. 19 the board heard recommendations and comments from several people concerning Benick’s past job performance in Morrow County. Attorney for the Board, Joe Durham, recommended Benick’s termination of employment.

Prosecutor Charles Howland spoke about an incident when he felt threatened by Benick at a meeting with the Morrow County Commissioners.

Benick’s attorney spoke and asked that Benick be heard by the board. She said that the ultimate question was whether there was violence at the meeting with Howland, or whether it was a heated disagreement.

Benick also spoke, saying that there was a confrontation. He explained it was his desire to get at the facts.

“I was firm, not yelling,” said Benick. “Everything I said was true.”

Commissioner Burgess Castle said it started through a disagreement concerning a residential sewage system. He referred to it as a “stand-up confrontation.”

The board deliberated in executive session for 90 minutes before board member Jeff Polzin stated the reason he was making a motion for Benick’s termination.

Polzin said that the board’s decision is not based on the recommendation from the hearing on Oct. 3 when the hearing officer recommended that they apologize to Benick and re-instate him. The decision was also not based on the situation with problems with the Ohio Department of Health.

Polzin said that the decision is based on their violence in the workplace policy and Howland’s explanation (of feeling intimidated) as well as past instances of intimidation in in the workplace. The board then voted for his termination with four voting in favor and Glenn Bragg opposing it.

The board’s attorney fees in the matter of Benick’s employment issue were approved. The present fees for the law firm total $43,166.17 to date. They anticipate additional fees for his presence at the meeting Monday and possibly more since Durham said Benick is likely to file an appeal concerning the termination.

These fees are paid by the Health Department, and not the county’s General Fund.

In other business:

• The board adopted policies to supplement the Ohio Department of Health Sewage Treatment System (STS) Rules that specify differences in alterations and new STS Systems. Stephanie Bragg, Director of Nursing said that this policy was recommended by both the Ohio Department of Health and Delaware County that has a similar policy.

A resolution was passed by the board on obtaining a permit for new sewage treatment systems in Morrow County. Responsibility will fall on the homeowner to get approved soil study and design for their new Sewage Treatment Systems.

• The first of three readings was given for 2019 fee schedules for sewage fees and food service fees. The Dec. 17 board meeting will be the final reading for the 2019 fee schedules.

• In sewage program issues and concerns, it is noted that updates and action plans are to be completed by Dec. 1, 2018. This is at the request of the Ohio Department of Health.

• At the request of the Morrow County Commissioners, the Morrow County Health Department is requested to move out of the Social Services building and into the Wilhelm Building. Health Commissioner, Pam Butler has concerns about security and the condition of the building. They are also exploring the possibility of using space at other locations.

The board requested that Butler schedule a meeting with Morrow County Commissioners when all Health Board members and County Commissioners can be present to talk over any move for the health department.

By Alberta Stojkovic

The Sentinel