W/VIDEO Geauga County Mental Health Board in Disarray
June 7, 2022 by Valerie S. Clause

Interim Director Resigns, Malainy Storms Out of Contentious Meeting

If the Geauga County Board of Mental Health and Recovery Services board accomplished anything at its special meeting held June 6, the public was not made aware of it.

If the Geauga County Board of Mental Health and Recovery Services board accomplished anything at its special meeting held June 6, the public was not made aware of it.

Instead, those in attendance witnessed the contention and dysfunction of the board, which manifested in sharp tones and board Chair Jennifer Malainy abruptly leaving the meeting.

The chaotic events came after the June 3 resignation of Interim Executive Director Amie Martin-D’Arienzo.

In an email, Malainy confirmed the resignation, adding Martin-D’Arienzo had not provided an official reason for stepping down. Attempts to reach Martin-D’Arienzo for comment prior to press deadline were unsuccessful.

The special meeting was scheduled for an executive session to “consider the appointment, employment, dismissal, discipline, promotion or complaints against a public employee, official, licensee or regulated individual,” as outlined by the Ohio Revised Code.

With Executive Director Jim Adams on paid administrative leave since May 4, and Martin-D’Arienzo resigning, the executive session could have been about either. However, ultimately, no action was taken or announced during the meeting or after executive session.

Read more: Adams’ Lawyer Warns of ‘Costly, Risky and Completely Unnecessary’ Lawsuit

On June 7, Malainy said Martin-D’Arienzo is still interim director until June 15, the date of the next board meeting.

“The board will be making decisions very soon,” she added.

During the June 6 meeting, questions arose over the timeline and nature of Martin-D’Arienzo’s resignation, but before that business could be conducted, the board was drawn into a conflict over the  virtual attendance of some members.

While 10 board members were present, four members initially joined the meeting via Zoom – Greg O’Brien, Walter “Skip” Claypool, Mike Petruziello and Jimmy Lee Holden.

Board member Marty Fay questioned how Malainy could overrule a 9-1 vote taken at the March 24 meeting to not allow virtual attendance via Zoom. According to a report from the League of Women Voters – Geauga, one board member expressed concern at the March 16 meeting over the possibility of the board’s meetings being monitored by people outside the U.S. — namely China.

Other board members also expressed their concerns about allowing virtual access to board members for this meeting, when they had not been allowed to participate remotely in the past.

“As chair, I made that decision to change it because of the importance of today and you all are going to learn what that is,” said Malainy.

Board members still were not in agreement with Malainy’s decision to use Zoom for the meeting.

“I wasn’t allowed to Zoom when I had COVID,” said member Ann Bagley.

“And I wasn’t allowed to have it when I had a bunch of my bowels removed,” said member Carolee Lesyk. “And I don’t think we should have Zoom now.”

Board member Vanessa Jensen cited a statement made by Claypool at the March 24 meeting, during which, according to minutes she read, Claypool said Geauga County Prosecutor Jim Flaiz told him the board’s initial vote to allow virtual access was not appropriate.

“So this board, based on that advice from Mr. Claypool, voted to not allow Zoom. I’ve spoken with Mr. Flaiz — I believe at least one or two others have as well — and he denies having ever said that,” Jensen said.

Malainy said she was trying to get Flaiz on the phone for advice regarding whether they could use Zoom during the meeting, but was unable to reach him immediately.

During this public discussion, tensions rose to the point that Fay said to Malainy, “Why are you talking to me in that tone of voice?”

And Lesyk, who adamantly expressed her assertion of “No Zoom – that’s all – No Zoom!” was reprimanded by Malainy.

“Carolee, I’m going to ask you to please stop or I’m going to ask you to leave because you’re coming over the table at me,” Malainy said. “Do you want me to call the sheriff?”

Malainy would later again admonish Lesyk saying, “Carolee, let’s keep it together, OK? Because I don’t want to have to call the sheriff.”

Ultimately, Malainy ended the Zoom call, with O’Brien saying he would be at the meeting within 20 minutes. Petruziello also arrived at the meeting in person, but after executive session had closed.

After Malainy ended the Zoom session, some board members wanted to know why they learned about Martin-D’Arienzo’s resignation from the press.

Fay questioned Malainy about how, when and to whom Martin-D’Arienzo offered her resignation. Malainy responded that she would discuss that in executive session, but Fay pressed her to answer during the open part of the board meeting.

Malainy told the board Martin-D’Arienzo had submitted her resignation via email to her on Friday, June 3.

“Ok, if it was Friday, why are we only finding out about it now,” Fay said.

“Because things have changed — that’s what I’m talking about in executive session,” said Malainy.

“It was public record today in the newspaper that (Martin-D’Arienzo) resigned, but yet we never got any notification,” Fay reiterated.

“Because I’m going to tell you in executive session,” Malainy responded.

As Fay continued to ask why Malainy had not let the board know about Martin-D’Arienzo’s resignation, and the press knew before the board, another board member joined and said, “Well, you could have let us know.”

“There’s a reason that I didn’t and I’m going to tell you in executive session,” Malainy said.

Board member Linda Miller said Malainy’s reason for not telling the board “better be good.”

“And if it’s not, what are you going to do, Linda?” Malainy replied.

At that point, the board decided to take a break while waiting for O’Brien to arrive. Malainy was on her cell phone while other board members stepped out and milled around the room. Suddenly, Malainy gathered up her belongings and headed for the door.

“I want this meeting called,” she said. “I’m not going to let these people attack me.”

Malainy added she wanted Flaiz on the phone and she wanted board member Kathy Johnson to come out of the room with her.

Following her exit, board members and others in attendance congregated outside the building, where another verbal confrontation took place between Malainy and Fay.

Afterward, the board decided it would move on with board Vice-Chair Steve Oluic leading the meeting in Malainy’s absence.

After O’Brien arrived, Oluic took the meeting into executive session. About 30 minutes after Malainy left, she came back accompanied by a man and three children, who were identified by others attending the meeting as her husband and children.

She went into the executive session and the meeting concluded afterward with adjournment and no action taken.