Don’t retaliate against employees, commissioner urges board.

Published: Tue, April 15, 2014 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Peter H. Milliken


A Mahoning County commissioner renewed her call for the county Board of Developmental Disabilities to defer the hiring of a new superintendent until it fully investigates complaints the commissioners have received.

The comments by Commissioner Carol Rimedio-Righetti at Monday’s DD board meeting followed an hourlong executive session Thursday between members of the DD board and the county commissioners.

In their Wednesday notice announcing that session, the county commissioners asked the DD board to “refrain from hiring a replacement director” until the board investigates and addresses complaints the commissioners have received.

In the letter, the commissioners said the complaints concern “allegations against the former director, Larry Duck, and some current employees of the board alleging mistreatment of employees and clients.”

The commissioners’ letter did not cite any specific allegations made in the complaints, and Righetti declined to elaborate Monday evening.

Righetti reminded DD board members they had received information packets at the executive session and urged them to review that information.

“We would ask our board members to give us that due respect,” said Righetti, who is running for re-election this year.

“We need to address that before you move forward on anything. We’re just asking you to work with us to clear everything up,” she told the board.

The county commissioners appoint five of the seven DD board members, and the county probate judge appoints the other two.

“We’re praying and hoping that this board takes no retaliation” against employees whose comments its members may be reading, Righetti added.

“Those kinds of allegations are outrageous and ridiculous. I’ve never mistreated the clients,” Duck said in a telephone interview after the meeting.

“The comment I’ve heard from so many people that worked under me is I’m firm but fair, and I certainly have never mistreated the staff,” Duck added.

Frank Santisi, board vice chairman, who conducted the meeting, and Kristine Hodge, acting superintendent, declined to comment on Righetti’s remarks.

Only four of seven board members attended Monday’s meeting; the other three were absent for medical or personal reasons, Santisi said.

The board placed Duck on paid administrative leave Sept. 19, 2013, pending an Ohio Ethics Commission investigation.

The ethics panel then advised the board that Duck’s conduct was not criminal.

Board lawyer Christopher Sammarone said Duck may have divulged confidential information during a board meeting, but he declined to be specific.

“I have no idea what he’s talking about,” Duck said.

“I have always conducted myself properly and professionally,” including adherence to confidentiality obligations, Duck said.

After five months of paid administrative leave from his $120,636-a-year job as board superintendent, Duck resigned in March with a $111,317 severance package that included six months’ pay, cash for sick leave and personal days and six months’ paid health insurance.

On the day it put Duck on paid administrative leave, the board commissioned an employee-satisfaction survey in which board employees expressed dissatisfaction with their senior management but satisfaction with their jobs and immediate supervisors.

Forty of 300 board employees responded to the survey, which was conducted by Rachel L. Livengood, of Troy, Ohio, former county human-resources director.

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