Commissioner denies firing was political
YOUNGSTOWN — Commissioner David Ditzler denies that that the Mahoning County commissioners knew that maintenance employee Ricky Morrison was suffering from cancer when they terminated his employment. He was later rehired.
Ditzler said during Thursday’s commissioners meeting the commissioners board “governs through resolution. Everything we do is through resolution. The only resolution passed with respect to Mr. Morrison was to hire Mr. Morrison. That was it.”
He said “We reviewed the situation. We returned him to work, and we wish him well. We know nothing about any HIPAA. We were not aware of any health situations, never were, never have been.”
HIPAA is the acronym for The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, a federal law that required the creation of national standards to protect sensitive patient health information from being disclosed without the patient’s consent or knowledge.
Morrison was terminated Dec. 2 and reinstated Dec. 14.
Acting county Prosecutor Gina DeGenova said last week that after getting a letter from an attorney representing Morrison, she investigated the matter and determined that county Administrator Audrey Tillis — and not the county commissioners — fired Morrison. DeGenova also said Tillis’ decision was not proper.
Attorney Subodh Chandra of Cleveland has alleged that Morrison was fired for supporting Republican Geno DiFabio in his race against incumbent Commissioner Carol Rimedio Righetti. Righetti was declared the winner of the commissioner seat after a recount by 42,563 votes to 42,433.
DeGenova told Chandra in a letter last week that Tillis’ “action was not politically motivated,” but that Morrison’s firing was void because Tillis doesn’t have the authority to fire him. That decision rests with the commissioners and they “will not ratify the action taken by” Tillis, DeGenova said.
DiFabio spoke during the public comment portion of Thursday’s meeting, before Ditzler spoke, saying Morrison was fired “because of politics.” He looked at Commissioners Rimedio Righetti and Ditzler, saying: “You fired a guy suffering from cancer at Christmas because you were mad because he supported me, no other reason. There will be testimony that supports that.”
DiFabio suggested in his remarks he would be running against Ditzler for commissioner “in two years” when Ditzler’s current term expires.