Mental Health Board Clashes as More Decisions Made
June 21, 2022 by Valerie S. Clause

Despite continued in-fighting between board members, the Geauga County Board of Mental Health and Recovery Services has a new interim director and, as of July 1, a new slate of board officers will take over.

Despite continued in-fighting between board members, the Geauga County Board of Mental Health and Recovery Services has a new interim director and, as of July 1, a new slate of board officers will take over.

The board also discussed during its June 15 meeting which board members would participate in a mediation on June 29 involving Executive Director Jim Adams, who is currently on paid administrative leave.

A law enforcement officer from the Geauga County Sheriff’s Office was also on site during the meeting.

Board Chair Jennifer Malainy said the attorney representing the board for its insurance company asked for a decision to be made in open session regarding which members would represent the board in an upcoming mediation with lawyers for Adams.

The board is represented by John McLandrich of Mazanec, Raskin and Ryder.

“We need to limit our conversation strictly to who will be at mediation in open session,” she said.

Malainy suggested three to four members should be selected and explained the board could not have a quorum at the mediation, as that would be a violation of sunshine laws.

“Per our attorney, it’s very important that the mediation is productive,” Malainy said. “Yes, it’s important to have different views and these were his words — that’s why I’ve written it down — but ultimately, the board members that attend should be those that represent a majority opinion. Our attorney does not want to have a second mediation within the mediation amongst the board members, and doesn’t want to be paralyzed by such indifferences that we can’t move forward in coming to a potential resolution. I was told by our previous attorney that I should be there but if the board disagrees, I’m more than happy to step out.”

Board member Greg O’Brien expressed concern about attending a mediation the board did not have more information about. He recommended an executive session to establish the parameters of the meeting with the attorney. During the discussion selecting board members to participate in the mediation, Jensen was one of the individuals recommended, since she has experience in mediations.

Claypool did not want Jensen in the mediation, saying that she is “disruptive and not a team player.”

“I take great umbrage when you take personal attacks at anyone on the board, and you do it a lot, you’re very hypocritical when you do it – and it actually makes my blood boil,” said Greg O’Brien, board member, regarding Claypool’s comments.

Claypool acknowledged that he can be a “disruptive force,” but also said he has every right to speak out.

Jensen also reminded Claypool that she was not the disruptive person at the June 6 meeting, during which Malainy walked out.

Malainy agreed she would set up a special meeting for executive session to discuss the plan further with the attorney.

Board members also discussed an email correspondence that was sent to board member Vanessa Jensen, with some asking why she was included in emails from Susan Wieland, of the Geauga County Prosecutor’s Office, instead of those being directed only to Malainy as the chairperson.

Malainy said decisions were being made that should not have been as a result of those emails.

Jensen explained she had asked as a matter of public information what had been given to the attorney regarding Jim Adams on behalf of the board, which Wieland sent to her. Wieland then asked Jenkins about her thoughts on the matter, which she responded to.

Jensen said she did not send the information she obtained or the correspondence between herself and the attorney to her colleagues because the board had been instructed it was not appropriate to copy all members on their emails.

There was lengthy debate among board members regarding who should be selected to attend the mediation. Board member Alberta Chokshi asked if it would be prudent for balance to have two members who were state appointed, and two who were appointed by the county commissioners.

Board member Greg O’Brien agreed.

“I think we need to start bringing this board together. I think it was a good recommendation,” he said. “I think we need to have two state people and two county people, for nothing else, just symbolic of moving forward, hopefully, hopefully, hopefully — as one board in the near future.”

Five board members were eventually selected, with the option to revise the names if needed after the meeting with the attorney. Those selected were Malainy, O’Brien, and Jimmie Lee Holden as county appointees; and Chokshi and Fay as state appointees.

Malainy wanted the board to reconsider having Fay participate.

“Everyone, there’s been some issues and I can’t sit in a room with certain people, so I would ask that you please reconsider that,” she said.

O’Brien responded to Malainy’s statement, but was interrupted multiple times by Malainy and had to cite Robert Rules of Order to finish.

“Now that it’s been brought up, the issues that you speak of — and I think it’s about Marty here – it’s what I read in the press and I don’t follow social media, but you made an accusation against a board member who I have known for 20 years, who has been an AA sponsor for a decade, who has never raised his voice to a male let alone a female, except to be assertive and to be listened to,” O’Brien said. “And for you to make an allegation that this man somehow overtly made any action toward you — it’s just unbelievable. But having said that, if you feel uncomfortable on the board …”

“It wasn’t an allegation,” Malainy said, adding she can have a police officer present in the mediation process if Fay is involved.

“Again, with the police officers,” O’Brien responded. “Which again in my opinion, which I’m allowed to still have in America — it’s not based in any rational fact. The fact that we have a sheriff sitting out there, here (at the meeting), as opposed to out protecting and serving the public is such an onslaught of wasteful funds.”

Malainy again interjected.

“He’s protecting and serving me,” she said. “I am a member of the community. And that is the truth.”

Following another debate on whether the selection of new officers could be postponed, board members moved forward with nominations and voting.

Malainy and Steve Oluic were nominated for chairperson, with Oluic winning in an 8-6 vote.

Those voting for Oluic included Ann Bagley, Chokshi, Carolee Lesyk, Fay, O’Brien, Linda Miller, Jensen and Oluic. Votes for Malainy came from Walter “Skip” Claypool, Holden, Kathy Johnson, Mike Petruziello, Mary Ruth Shumway and Malainy.

Miller was selected as vice-chairperson over Claypool. Chokshi was voted in as secretary over Johnson. Petruziello was voted in as treasurer over Holden.

Other business included an executive session to consider the employment and/or appointment of a public employee pursuant to Ohio Revised Code Section 121.22 (G)(1). Following executive session, the board returned with the motion to appoint Leila Vidmar as interim director.

Vidmar previously served on the mental health board in 2019, and is a mental health and addiction out-patient counselor, according to her LinkedIn profile.