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Public agencies are responsible for budgets

Financial problems have forced the Putnam County Health Department to lay off all its employees and ask the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department to take over temporarily.

Let's face it. This happened because the board that oversees the Putnam department failed to do its job.

The problems began in 2010 under former administrator Jackie Fleshman, officials said.

The health department moved into a larger facility in 2010 with the idea that a clinic would generate the money needed to cover costs. But the clinic was not as popular as officials thought it would be.

The agency also spent $100,000 in legal fees warding off a wrongful termination grievance by a sanitarian, a case the health department lost.

The department paid its legal fees first, setting in motion a chain of financial events that led to a train wreck. Even after laying off all 12 employees, the agency still receives past due notices from vendors.

Board members said they weren't really aware of what was going on until a new administrator came in.

How often those words are spoken when a non-profit agency collapses. The board did not know. Board members trusted the administrator.

Would they do so with their own money?

The time has come for people who sit on these boards to spend more time looking at the books and less time listening to the administrator wax poetically about the agency's mission and work.

Everyone is for improving the public's health, but board members' job includes making the budget balance. Boards exist to provide oversight.

Public bodies might do well to appoint young accountants to boards. Such an appointment would be a good career move for them, but they also would provide a real service to the public.

When boards fail to supervise an administrator, operations can collapse, endangering service to the public.

Better oversight would prevent a lot of trouble.


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