GPH Continues Admin Search
February 2, 2023 by Amy Patterson

Trumbull, Portage Counties Opt Out of Joint Talks; Lake Shows Interest

Geauga County Board of Health members are still in search of a new administrator and environmental health director.

Geauga County Board of Health members are still in search of a new administrator and environmental health director.

The board has held a series of weekly special meetings since early December 2022, as it’s grappled with the task of finding a new department head after the Lake County General Health District decided it no longer wishes to share Administrator Adam Litke and Environmental Health Director Dan Lark with GPH.

Litke apprised the board during its Jan. 25 of important upcoming administrative work, including preparations for the Health District Advisory Committee meeting in March and Geauga County Budget Commission meeting in April.

“Between November and May is the busiest time for most of us … in finance or administration,” he told the board. “You’re swamped.”

Litke has split his time between Lake and Geauga counties since September 2021 — Lark since March of last year. After returning from executive session, GPH Board Chair Rich Piraino asked the board to approve an addendum to an agreement with LCGHD to keep Litke and Lark in Geauga until June 30 of this year. The motion was approved unanimously, with board member Ashley Jones abstaining from the vote.

Jones said there are currently 29 applicants for the administrator position and with discussions of a possible cooperative agreement between GPH and LCGHD, the four applicants who have already been interviewed will be notified within a two- to three-week timeframe of the board’s plan of action going forward.

Depending on which path is chosen, the administrator could be hired through GPH or through a cooperative agreement, board member Lynn Roman said.

Board member Carolyn Brakey said neither Trumbull nor Portage counties are interested in any sort of cooperative agreement with GPH, but she and Roman are in continued talks with the LCGHD.

“We had another meeting this week, Lynn and I, with (Lake County Health Commissioner) Ron Graham,” she said. “One thing that came up was some discussion regarding programs we may be able to create, additional services to the community, if we partner with Lake that would have no additional cost to (GPH).”

Brakey said she traveled to Columbus to visit with officials at the Ohio Department of Health, adding the meeting with ODH was productive and helpful.

The department has no objections — legal or otherwise — to any of the paths GPH is exploring, she said.

“They do feel it’s not their place to kind of push us in one direction or another, but they felt we’re asking the great questions, considering the right issues, we’re looking at the legal aspects, financial aspects, how it impacts the community and they were very positive about the work that’s being done,” she said.

The board rescinded a motion passed earlier in January related to the GPH reserve fund and replaced it with one that is more in line with suggestions Geauga County Auditor Chuck Walder made when he appeared before the board Jan. 4 to explain the health district’s financial situation.

The reserve account will be set to hold a maximum of $1 million, Litke said.

“The point of a reserve account (is it) earmarks money for the board of health for things you may need that are not common expenditures,” he explained. “This one would be more for like, you know, vehicles, refrigerators for nursing, things like that — unusual expenses that we don’t plan for every year.”

The board approved the adoption of new software to create an online portal to allow online payments for and delivery of permits, as well as a motion to eliminate the requirement for a whole lot evaluation on certain lot splits.

Lark said splits resulting in lots between 5 and 20 acres were required to undergo a whole lot evaluation, including soil tests and plan designs. However, many lots are split but not built on.

The evaluation can lead to a property owner “spending several thousand dollars, really unnecessarily,” he said, adding fewer than 10 lots per year should be affected by the change.

During a short public comment session, Geauga resident Mary Briggs told the board she plans to file suit against it for alleged violations of Ohio’s Open Meetings Act — often called the “Sunshine Law” — and over the status of Health Commissioner Dr. Jeffrey Cameron’s contract.

Documentation sent by Briggs to the Geauga County Maple Leaf after the meeting showed Cameron’s contract was set to run Feb. 1, 2022, to Dec. 31, 2022.

When reached by phone, Litke said the contract did end, but Cameron continues to perform his role and the board expects to have a new contract in place at their regular meeting Feb. 22.