Edgar Co. (ECWd) –
Once again we find local reporting is just that, reporting. The challenge with simply “reporting” is that it fails to get to the root of the matters being reported on. A headline in November 19, 2022, Prairie Press reads: “Health Department rights itself”
The headline leads people to believe the “Health Department” rights itself when in fact that is not true. For those who simply read headlines and move on, you have been misinformed. It was the Health Department Board that took action on numerous problems, but even those steps did not “right” what took place by the former Administrator of the Health Department and a board member’s improper independent action taken, which included providing a false document to the county treasurer regarding who actually authorized pay increases for two people at the health department. It appears the public will not see any accountability for that illegal action. More details on those matters can be found in this article.
“We don’t believe it was malfeasance”, “It was done by a lack of understanding,”
That is what was reported being said by Dustin Harmon of Bellweather Management Services & Consulting. First, he says he doesn’t “believe” it was malfeasance but then states a position of fact by claiming “it was done by a lack of understanding”. So which is it?
No malfeasance? What part of violating the Open Meetings Act multiple times and taking action in violation of the law is not malfeasance? Such violations, according to the law, constitute a Class C Misdemeanor so how are multiple violations, all documented, not malfeasance?
It was done by a lack of understanding? Is the public to believe the Chairman of the Health Board, who also manages the only Hospital in Edgar County, did not understand the key requirements of such a position? Like the one that no funds can be spent without board approval or that no pay raises can be given without board approval, or that it takes a quorum to conduct a legal meeting? Is the public to believe the former Administrator did not know it took a quorum to conduct meetings or board approval for pay raises? Sorry, but we are not buying the reported “lack of understanding” in this matter as it would require a total disregard for the most basic principles of government and business operations.
The paper claimed Harmon said, ‘He added there is no clear precedent for how to approve past actions taken that were done improperly but likely would have been approved at the time had the full board been meeting with established policies in place’, which was not in quotes in the paper, so we have to assume this is the reporter’s interpretation of what was said.
Why would the focus be on “approving” past actions we know were done illegally? The board did not approve the elevated pay that Smith doled out when they took steps to reduce the improper pay increases without board approval, so why should we assume the improper pay would have been approved if the full board would have met?
“The pay increase, using federal COVID funds, was authorized by board chairman Oliver Smith with concurrence by board member Edward Rico because of the extra workload the pandemic created for the administrators.”
That is NOT what the records show. In fact, the fraudulent misrepresentation made on the official record indicates the Board of Health authorized the pay increases, yet the actual truth is no such Board of Health authorization ever took place. Smith admitted that fact during a meeting as we covered in this article. There is no public record supporting the illegal pay raises were authorized by Smith and concurrence by Rico as claimed by the Prairie Press. More importantly, even if there was a record showing those two people authorized and concurred on the illegal pay raises, such an authorization violates the law. How special the paper left that part out.
The paper goes on to report comments from the new owner of Bellweather who said the public should know that 86% of the health department’s spending is not local property tax. I hope the public is smart enough to see through that statement. While most of the spending may not be tied to local property tax, they are spending public funds that come from We The People through some form of government collection of the people’s money at both the state and federal levels.
We reported on prior misinformation from the local paper regarding the health department in this article.