CHAMPAIGN – Documents released by the former employer of fired C-U public health director Vito Palazzolo show board members were blocked from talking about his employment there – except in a letter that gives him a good recommendation.
The News-Gazette asked for the documents from the Ottawa County, Mich., health department under the Freedom of Information Act.
His separation agreement calls for help finding him a new job, as well as $31,623.86 for time left on his contract.
Palazzolo joined the Michigan department Oct. 28, 2002. He left its employ Aug. 5, 2005. In January 2006, he took over as head of the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District, from which he was fired in August.
The C-U district claimed that Palazzolo used an agency credit card to buy a truck and high-definition televisions without approval and to buy food and drinks at local shops and engaged in nepotism, among other charges.
The C-U board was not informed of previous problems with Palazzolo other than a prepared statement from the Michigan board that praises him.
Alan G. Vanderberg, Ottawa County's administrator, declined to say why Palazzolo was fired in Michigan.
In response to questions, he would only refer to a letter dated Aug. 5, 2005, that is part of the separation agreement.
It reads, in full:
"To whom it may concern:
"Mr. Vito Palazzolo was employed as the Health Officer with Ottawa County from October 28, 2002, to Aug. 5, 2005.
"Mr. Palazzolo led a major restructuring of the Ottawa County Health Department. He performed his duties with enthusiasm and dedication."
The letter is signed by Vanderberg.
Palazzolo's separation agreement specifically requires board members to answer inquiries about him using the language of that letter.
From Michigan, Palazzolo first found a job at Lewis and Clark County in Montana. He never reported for his first day of work, said the chairman of that county commission, Mike Murray.
"We were waiting for him to arrive. Out of the blue, he called and said he took another job" in Champaign, Murray said, adding his agency did not uncover any allegations against Palazzolo.
Palazzolo could not be reached for comment.