WILMINGTON — The Clinton County commissioners met Wednesday with members of the commissioner-appointed Citizens for Elderly Services board, which hasn’t met in about 18 months.
While the commissioners said the goal of that meeting was to dispel confusions about that board’s duties and get it meeting again, the meeting also saw a board member and a commissioner question each other’s integrity.
“With all due respect, Commissioner (Pat) Haley has a conflict of interest, rather blatant,” board member Dean Knapp said, referring to Haley’s wife working for COA. “So a direct role from his perspective, I think, would be misplaced.”
“You’re totally out of line,” Haley said, adding that the Ohio Ethics Commission and the Clinton County Prosecutor’s Office has issued opinions advising Haley. “Dean, you’ve been processing misinformation all along, and it’s obvious to me that you have.”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, come on, if we’re going to get into this kind of talk, let’s sit down with real facts Mr. Haley,” Knapp responded.
Haley said Knapp and two others petitioned the commissioners in November 2011 to terminate the commissioners’ contract with COA.
“You felt at that time they were not a good partner,” Haley said. “The three of you agreed that the administration of the seniors program should be run by Community Action and the contract with Council on Aging should be terminated.
“You also said that you would prepare a plan to administer the senior program and submit it to the commissioners,” Haley continued.
Haley went on to say that that plan never materialized and the commissioners reached out to Clinton County Job and Family Services, which did research JFS’ ability to administer the services. Haley said it was determined that wouldn’t be effective.
“As even more time passed, again, we asked you to submit a plan to administer the senior program,” Haley read on. “You did not submit a plan. And as a result, the contract with Council on Aging was continued.”
“Why don’t you just pass out a copy of that (Haley’s statement) to everybody Pat rather than having to read to us?” Knapp interrupted Haley. “I think everybody’s capable of reading. OK? So why don’t we do that?”
“I’m not going to get into a personal debate with you,” Haley said. “I wanted to share some facts that this is not new, that this is a problem.”
Haley said sharing information and putting everyone together in a room is the best course of action.
“As you talk about these things, I think most reasonable people will have a clear situation that’s not based on rumor, misunderstanding; it will be based on fact,” Haley said, adding that’s the role he wants the advisory role to play.
Throughout the almost hour-long meeting, Knapp criticized and disputed COA’s reports to commissioners from estimated costs to the importance, and definition, of recreation.
After the exchange, Commissioner Mike Curry said the board would make re-appointments, appoint two members to vacant positions on the board and have that board reorganize. Then, the board members would meet again with commissioners to explain what they believe the board’s responsibility is.
“Once that happens, then I think we call Council on Aging in and say, ‘This is our board that represents the interests of Clinton County and you need to supply information, have a flow of information between this elderly services board and Council on Aging,’” Curry said. “And if at some point in time you feel that there is a better way to have this program administered, present that plan, and then we will consider it.”
Earlier in the meeting, Curry said JFS’ proposal would have increased the administrative costs of the program, and said it would have delivered less money to seniors’ services.
Commissioner Kerry Steed said the difference would have removed $100,000 from senior services.
“But where’s the money being spent?” asked board member Larry Roddy. “Is it going to Clinton County? Is it going to Warren County? It might cost us more to manage it in county, but we get the services in county.
Later, Roddy said he would only be interested in meeting again if the commissioners are “interested in getting the money back from Warren County, back in our control.”
“You can give an opinion,” Curry said. “But, if the opinion is that Council on Aging isn’t where we want the administration to be, then we need to have the suggestion where it should be.”
According to the six elderly services board members present, none knew why the board hadn’t met for 18 months. A few said they were told, but couldn’t say by who, that they didn’t need to meet again until further notice.
“I perceive that we quit meeting because the controls, all the money was given to the Council on Aging,” said Roddy. “We had no voice left.”
Steed said the commissioners did not direct the board to quit meeting and urged it to fulfill its role as an advisory board.
“Whatever issues may have been causing you not to meet, we’re past those now, and let’s get back to the regular routine you’ve been in since 1998,” Steed said. “And start to, again, regain your voice for the senior community in Clinton County.”
Reach Nathan Kraatz at 937-382-2574, ext. 2510 or on Twitter @NathanKraatz.