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Mahoning DD Supt. Larry Duck on unexplained paid leave 5 months


Published: Sun, March 2, 2014 @ 12:09 a.m.

Duck got paid $50,000 on unexplained leave

By Peter H. Milliken

milliken@vindy.com

AUSTINTOWN

Larry Duck has been on paid administrative leave for more than five months from his job as superintendent of the Mahoning County Board of Developmental Disabilities. But the board and its representatives still haven’t given a complete public explanation as to why.

On Sept. 19, 2013, the seven-member board voted unanimously to place Duck on leave “pending the results of an Ohio Ethics Commission investigation.”

Paul Nick, that commission’s executive director, said, however, “We do not have any pending matters before us involving Larry Duck.” He declined to comment further.

Christopher Sammarone of Youngstown, a DD board lawyer, declined to identify “a possible ethics violation” the board referred to the commission. He also would not say whether that commission responded in any way to the board.

“Following that, there were some other personnel matters that had arisen with our agency and our employees,” Sammarone said, declining to identify those matters.

“There’s no criminal investigation going on concerning Larry Duck,” Sammarone said. “These are personnel matters that involve Larry Duck that are being reviewed by our board.”

“There’s never been anything where one of the clients that we serve was ever at issue,” he added.

Any correspondence between the county DD board and the ethics commission on the investigation is confidential, said Atty. Eugene P. Nevada, of Dublin, Ohio, on behalf of the board.

Nevada declined to comment on how the board could justify paying Duck more than $10,000 a month to be on leave for five months based on Duck’s $120,636 annual salary. That salary is among the highest in county government.

The board’s appointing authorities, the county commissioners and probate judge, would like to see the matter resolved quickly.

“The board is doing [its] due diligence. ... The board is being very thorough,” Sammarone said, explaining the five-month length of Duck’s leave.

“We have been very diligent in looking at all aspects of this, and we don’t want to make a rash decision,” said Jack Gruber, board president since January.

The board announced with one day’s notice a Wednesday special meeting with an executive session on personnel matters. It then announced cancellation of the meeting less than three hours before it was to have begun.

A notice from the board, which did not name Duck, said the meeting was “canceled due to an unforeseen delay in pending personnel negotiations.” It said the board would meet again March 10.

“Due to the nature of personnel negotiations, we are prohibited from discussing the matter currently before the board until formal action is expected,” according to the postponement notice from Paul Iden, the board’s communications and development coordinator.

“There are negotiations going on right now regarding the personnel matters that involved Larry Duck,” Sammarone said, adding that he expects the board will resolve those matters at the March 10 meeting at the Leonard Kirtz School.

Duck, hired as developmental disabilities board superintendent March 1, 2001, has no disciplinary entries in his personnel file.

Duck not only is being paid his salary while on leave, but he also has the use of a county six-passenger 2013 Dodge van, which his employment contract says he may drive for both business and personal trips. His five-year employment contract ends May 31, 2015.

Nevada said Duck’s contract exempts him from a board policy adopted in 1985 that says board vehicles “shall be restricted for business purposes only.”

Duck won’t say

Duck, 64, of Struthers, declined to comment on matters concerning his employment, except to say he still has the van at his residence, that his contract entitles him to use it, and that, while actively working for the board, he used it for trips to professional conferences in Columbus.

Duck referred all other inquiries to his lawyer, Jonathan Greenberg of Cleveland, who declined to comment.

Mahoning County commissioners, the appointing authority for five of the seven DD board-member positions, want the Duck matter resolved soon, said Commissioner Carol Rimedio-Righetti.

Probate Court Judge Mark Belinky is the appointing authority for the two other board positions.

“We did, as the commissioners, tell the board that they must try to get this resolved. It’s been too long,” Righetti said.

The DD board members “have not conveyed a lot of information to us because it’s all been done in executive [closed-door] session,” she said.

Righetti said she believes one of the DD board’s concerns about Duck pertains to Workers’ Compensation matters.

Concerns surfaced in a May 25, 2012, email from Cathy Jones, county risk manager, to John A. McNally, then president of the county commissioners and now mayor of Youngstown.

“Larry is refusing to accommodate [duty] restrictions based on unrelated personnel and management issues. I reiterated to him nicely how that would affect him monetarily with regard to claims costs,” Jones told McNally.

“Kris Hodge [assistant superintendent] seems to think we are rushing people back to work,” Jones added. Hodge declined to comment further on this matter.

An email from Jones to Duck dated June 13, 2012, concerning a board employee, who generated a claim costing $5,029, said the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation “wants to know why she is still off since the restrictions on file allow for clerical/sedentary work with no client contact.”

Jones said Duck had told her he wanted the employee “to have this time off due to personnel-related issues occurring at the workshop” and that Duck had said he’d explain in writing to Jones why he “could not accommodate her restrictions.”

Righetti said DD board members have told her they’d like to resolve issues about Duck in the next two weeks.

Righetti said it’s unacceptable to her that Duck has been on paid leave for so long. But she added: “I don’t know the circumstances and how long it’s taking them to investigate whatever else they’re looking for” beyond the workers’ compensation matter.

With a $27 million annual budget and a staff of about 300, the DD board serves about 1,400 county residents with developmental disabilities free of charge. The board, which is funded by state money and two local real-estate tax levies, owns and operates seven programs serving clients ranging from birth through school and adulthood.

“Either resolve it and get him back working or do whatever you have to do to move forward,” Judge Belinky said. “The agency needs its head to either be operating or to move on, whatever they’re going to do. ... If there’s a reason that they can’t get this resolved quickly, I think that has to be made known to the public.”

Righetti and Judge Belinky said they believe the DD board’s programs are running smoothly.

The matters concerning Duck have not “affected our operation in any manner whatsoever,” Gruber said.


Comments

1Roger_Thornhill(607 comments)posted 9 months ago

The matters concerning Duck have not “affected our operation in any manner whatsoever,” Gruber said.

THEN WHY DOES HE WORK THERE IN THE FIRST PLACE!?!?!?!!?

Law should be changed so people do not get these long paid leaves. Should come out of their vacation and/or sick time.

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2DontBanThisDrone(493 comments)posted 9 months ago

"The matters concerning Duck have not “affected our operation in any manner whatsoever,” Gruber said."

If he's been off the job for 5 months, and it hasn't affected operation in any manner whatsoever, it sounds to me like this position pretty much isn't even needed.

(-:

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3Hmmmmm(48 comments)posted 9 months ago

Mahoning County politics at its worst.This is what happens when county commsioners try to get their people hired and an agency head resists.It is unfortunate that the puppet DD BOARD can use taxpayer money to defend their poor decision.The most vulnerable that the taxpayers in this county support are not being served.

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4grand4dad(197 comments)posted 9 months ago

This is totally outrageous. Something is very wrong when a so called investigation drags on for five months. If there were such serious concerns or allegations against this man, he should have been dealt with in a quick manner. If the decision was to fire him, he could appeal and fight to get back wages if the firing was found to be not justified. What happens if he ultimately is fired, does he have to pay back all the wages he raked in while on paid administrative leave? Absolutely crazy. No wonder people have such a negative view of public employment.

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5pgurney(281 comments)posted 9 months ago

I agree this IS outrageous. If he needed to be put on leave it should have been unpaid, or at least at HALF pay, and NO use of the company vehicle. No way should he be able to use that vehicle for personal use during normal employment anyway. His salary is among the highest in county government? Unbelievable.

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6reginold(2 comments)posted 9 months ago

If the position has been vacant for 5 months then it should be eliminated. Apparently this person is not needed for the department to function. Too many tax dollars thrown away. None benefit the actual individuals that need it. All the money is sucked up by management, county employees, and other positions that are not even needed. What a bureaucracy...it's a shame!! Every time another tax levy passes, I just cringe because I know where the money is going and it's not where the public thinks it is.

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72muchtax(382 comments)posted 9 months ago

Another waste of taxpayer money, another public employee abusing the system! 50000 to sit at home what a low life. They abuse the system then retire with fat pensions all paid by people that have none of these perks!

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8sue(172 comments)posted 8 months, 4 weeks ago

I'll be voting NO on the Mahoning County sales tax!!!

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9YtownParent(340 comments)posted 8 months, 4 weeks ago

Exactly @BlackPalm, the board has been outsourcing services at an alarming rate. Including handing over pediatric cases to Home Health Agencies to administer, sometimes when those agencies don't even have the consent of the parents to be serving their children. Since this is a supposed "ethics investigation", my question is how many of those private companies have personal and business ties to Mr. Duck?

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10Hmmmmm(48 comments)posted 8 months, 4 weeks ago

BlackPalm,,I strongly disagree with you. The Three Stooges we a very successful and beloved group, more than can be said for the Clown DD Board and the Honorable Sammorne

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11walter_sobchak(1950 comments)posted 8 months, 4 weeks ago

Voting against the proposed county sales tax will do nothing to affect the board. MCBDD is funded by separate property taxes dedicated to them. Read your tax bill or ballot the next time the have a renewal levy.

I have a cousin that is a client and a cousin that is employed as an aid in the workshop. It takes special people to work with DD clients and those on the floors are hardly overpaid. They earn every penny. Could you or would you work with a person with developmental disabilities? Could you work with people that cough, vomit and drool on you for hours every day? Staffing ratios for the various levels of clients are set by regulations.

As I understand it from my Aunt who attends Board meetings, this agency is very top heavy with overpaid managers that do little to truly help the clients. The board hates those parents and relatives that take active and vociferous roles in advocating for their loved ones. They are paid lip-service at the meetings and bad-mouthed behind the scenes. The problem is the Board members are NOT good advocates for the taxpayer by assuring that our tax dollars are spent wisely. A new probate judge will help. But, I'm not sure about the county commissioners. Please, don't take it out on the clients!

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12lidieo3(23 comments)posted 8 months, 3 weeks ago

I cant believe a portion (even if it was one penny) of my property tax goes to pay that man's salary and pays for his vehicle while he sits on his ass! What a slap in the face. Mr. Duck, you care nothing about your clients! Just think of the services they could be getting with the money that is being paid to your worthless self and the puppets you call your staff. It is true what goes around comes around and i hope you end up behind bars. U should have retired 5 months ago to save the taxpayers money you greedy, despicable character!

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13lidieo3(23 comments)posted 8 months, 3 weeks ago

If the Department is running smoothly without him, why are the tax payers paying him over 120,000 per year? Waste of money....my money!!!

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14Hmmmmm(48 comments)posted 8 months, 3 weeks ago

If you bothered to read the article you would see he was put on suspension. I am going out on a limb here, but I am guessing he disagrees with the boards decission. There are rules and laws that have to be followed and Mr Duck has a right to be paid. He may be a Duck, but he is no quack. From the article, the Ohio Ethics Commission is done with this,, they have nothing pending pertaining to Mr Duck. Seems to me the Board stepped in it.They seemed to have handled this matter very poorly.I do not see this ending well for them .

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