Friday, March 17, 2000

Sparks fly over MRDD questions

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        LEBANON — The vice president of the mental retardation board raised the hackles of Warren County commissioners Thursday night when she presented a list of agency goals her fellow board members and the interim superintendent had never seen.

        Commissioners met with members of the Board of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities to hear their answers to a list of 14 demands and questions.

        MRDD has been bombarded with criticism about its openness and its financial practices since it was revealed last month that the agency bought two homes for inflated prices.

        Some of the answers presented — including agency goals — were put together solely by board Vice President Judy Koontz and President Darrell Hunt after separate meetings with former Superintendent Charlotte Marinacci, Mrs. Koontz said.

Points of contention
        Mrs. Marinacci, who bought the homes for the agency, resigned two weeks ago, shortly after the commissioners stepped in to demand answers.

        “I wanted to hear from the board,” board of county commissioners President Pat South said. “I didn't want to hear from Mrs. Marinacci after she resigned.”

        Said Mrs. Koontz: “Darrell and I have been on the board the longest and have the most knowledge. It's not different information; it's in more detail.”

        Mr. Hunt did not attend the meeting.

        Mrs. South and Mrs. Koontz also clashed over commissioners' request that the MRDD board find a better meeting time than Friday evenings.

        “Pat, does it say some where in administrative law that it's illegal for us to meet on Friday nights?” Mrs. Koontz said.

        That issue, as with most of the other questions, was still being looked into, MRDD board members said.

Vacation time issue
        Raising a new issue, Mrs. South asked commissioners if they knew they'd given Mrs. Marinacci an additional five weeks' annual vacation — for a total of nine weeks — in a 1998 resolution. Many current members were not on the board then, but one who was — Kathleen Morin — said she thought Mrs. Marinacci was given a total of five weeks' vacation.

        The former superintendent, whose weekly salary was $1,788, took pay instead of vacation time for four weeks in both 1998 and 1999, Mrs. South said.

        At the end of the meeting — despite calls from several in the audience of about 100 for board members' resignations — Mrs. South merely asked them to think hard in the next 30 days about what would be best for MRDD.

        “Even with a new superintendent, there is legitimate concern whether this board can provide adequate oversight because in the past there was too much blind faith,” she said.

        If board members stay, it could hurt MRDD's chances to pass future levies, she suggested.

        MRDD provides care, educational services and housing to mentally retarded adults and children in Warren County.


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