Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local News

March 23, 2014

Health dept. staff accuses Wallace of threats

GRAYSON — A tense confrontation between health department employees and Judge-Executive Charles Wallace marked last Wednesday’s meetings of the Little Sandy District Health Department Board of Directors and Carter County Board of Health.

Addressing the Little Sandy board, several employees accused Wallace of making repeated threats to employees ranging from loss of jobs to taking the department’s tax revenues.

“He threatened to have everyone removed from the county board,” said Rita Sexton.

Reading from a prepared statement, Sexton also alleged Wallace made numerous trips to the department demanding meeting dates be changed to accommodate his schedule.

She also criticized Magistrate Clifford Roe and accused him, among other things, of making derogatory comments about health department employees.

“We have taken flak from Mr. Roe in many meetings. He talked to me like a dog,” said Sexton.

Several other employees echoed Sexton’s sentiments. They expressed the belief they are being retaliated against because of a television news report by a Lexington station about comments Wallace used to describe the residents of Olive Hill.

The judge-executive has claimed his statements were misinterpreted.

“We are being viciously attacked, treated unfairly and falsely accused of many things, but we will maintain our unified position,” said Sexton.

Wallace denied the allegations  he made threats against the health department. Roe was not present at the meeting to respond to the accusations against him.

In other business, the Carter County Board of Health appointed Don Cooke to fill a vacancy on the Little Sandy board resulting from the resignation of Willie Patton.

Olive Hill Mayor Kenny Fankell was critical of the appointment, saying it leaves the Little Sandy board without a member from the west side of the county.

“I have concerns because the west side doesn’t have anyone on the board now. I think they should have waited to appoint someone,” said Fankell.

Another surprise at the meeting was the projection of an operating surplus of about $50,000 by the end of the fiscal year.

An audit of the department’s finances last year showed a shortfall of $483,213 ― meaning that the projected surplus represents a turnaround of more than a half million dollars since June 30 of last year.

Interim Director Paula Thornberry says consolidation has provided some savings, but layoffs are the main contributor to the department’s improved finances.

“Salaries have been the source of our biggest savings. Approximately 80 percent of all the money we’ve cut from the budget has come from salary reductions,” said Thornberry.

Elliott County Judge-Executive Carl Fannin believes the savings should be used to hire a new director for the department.

“We advertised to hire a director. We need to do what we said we were going to do,” he added.

Thornberry and other department employees warned the budget is not sufficiently recovered to the point that hiring a director would be feasible.

“If we hire a director now, we will have to lay off another two to three nursing staff,” said Trena Greene, director of nursing.

The Little Sandy District Health Department board will next meet at 6:30 p.m. April 9, and the Carter County Board of Health will meet at 6:30 p.m. April 21.

Both meetings will be at the Carter County Courthouse.

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