Youngstown health board to prevent leave to seek other job

By William K. Alcorn


The Youngstown City District Health Board will develop a policy that would prevent its civil-service employees from taking leaves of absence from their jobs to seek other employment.

Youngstown Civil Service Commission regulations permit leaves of absence, but a recent leave approved by the city health board caused it to lose its contract with the Mahoning County health board to provide neonatal hepatitis B screening and follow-up in Mahoning, Trumbull, Columbiana and Portage counties.

The hepatitis B program is funded by an Ohio Department of Health grant obtained by the Mahoning County District Board of Health, which subcontracted with the city health department to provide the service for the city for 15 hours per week.

When the city health board accepted the hepatitis B program, however, nurse Nicole Beckner-Litz took a leave of absence to seek other employment. The board had no one else to fill the position.

At that point, the county health department, concerned it would lose the grant because of the gap in service, gave the city health department a 30-day notice that it was canceling its contract with the city and would be handling the Hepatitis B program itself, said Patricia Sweeney, county health commissioner.

Because the city health board lost the hepatitis B contract, when Beckner-Litz returned from her leave of absence, she was laid off.

But Beckner-Litz, a registered nurse, had tested under civil service for a public health-nurse position, said Erin Bishop, city health department administrator and acting health commissioner.

The board had wanted to discuss the situation with Beckner-Litz, third on the list of 10 eligible candidates, but members said at this week’s meeting they were obligated to hire her as nurse to help the homeless because of the city’s civil-service regulations.

In a letter dated Oct. 24 to the Youngstown Civil Service Commission, Bishop said the board intended to fill a public-health position and asked the commission for a list of eligible candidates. In a letter dated Nov. 27, the board offered Beckner-Litz a management position in the nursing division that pays $44,269.94 per year.

The board approved hiring her at its meeting this week, but not all board members were happy with the situation.

“She did a job on us, and now we are rewarding her,” said board member Artis Gillam Sr.

The Rev. Lewis Macklin, another board member, said the board had no choice but to approve her hiring, but he said he was “not comfortable” with the situation and cast what he called a “ceremonial ‘no’” vote to express his displeasure.

The board then approved a motion to create its own policy regarding the granting leaves of absence to employees.

“We have to police our own actions to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” the Rev. Mr. Macklin said.

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