Meeting rules force postponement on plan to replace health board members

WATSEKA — Iroquois County Board Chairman Rod Copas' plan to replace three of his county's four appointees on the Ford-Iroquois Board of Health was postponed during Tuesday's meeting because the action was not listed on the agenda.

The Paxton Record informed Iroquois County State's Attorney Jim Devine of the agenda omission prior to an executive session. Copas had just called the closed session, citing a clause in the Illinois Open Meetings Act that allows closed meetings to discuss "the selection of a person to fill a public office" or "the discipline, performance or removal of the occupant of a public office."

After the hourlong closed-door meeting, Devine informed the board that the removal of board of health members was not listed on the agenda.

Meanwhile, Devine said, an item that was listed on the agenda — "a motion to ask for the resignation of three existing Iroquois County members of the Ford-Iroquois Board of Health" — appears to be the action that was intended to occur, as decided at a committee meeting last week.

The board then voted 11-3 to approve asking for the resignations of health board members Diane Clatterbuck, a registered nurse from Donovan; Jill Kaeb, a registered nurse from Cissna Park; and Dr. Alexander Michalow, a Bradley resident who has an orthopedic practice at Iroquois Memorial Hospital in Watseka.

Voting "no" were Donna Crow of Milford, Dale Schultz of Clifton and Jean Hiles of Watseka. Abstaining were Jed Whitlow of Gilman and Susan Wynn Bence of Watseka. Six members were absent.

Copas said Monday that he had already called all three health board members and asked them if they would resign. He said earlier that he believed the policy and procedure committee's 6-0 vote Thursday authorized him to do so.

As of Monday, both Clatterbuck and Kaeb had told Copas they would not resign. Michalow had not returned Copas' call, Copas said.

Copas said last week that if the health board members do not resign, he would ask for the county board to remove all three at this week's meeting, and replacements would be appointed.

Following Tuesday's meeting, Copas said he was planning to set up a meeting for 8 a.m. Monday at the Administrative Center to vote on the removal of the health board appointees.

The county board's policy and procedure committee discussed a variety of concerns last week about the health board, including possible violations of the Illinois Open Meetings Act and other state statutes and neglecting to notify the Ford and Iroquois county boards of various actions taken. Copas has also raised questions about various expenses of the health department, which are currently being reviewed by his county auditor.

"We need to fix what's broken," Copas told the committee.

According to state statutes, "any member (of a multi-county board of health) may be removed for misconduct or neglect of duty by the chairman or president of the county board, with the approval of the county board, of the county which appointed him."

Clatterbuck said Tuesday that she would not resign, saying she believes that she has "upheld the bylaws of the policies as written."

"To be accused of neglect of duty is a serious allegation, especially when there has been no verification such as," she said. "And to remove Mrs. Kaeb, Dr. Michalow and myself from the board because of questions regarding expenses or policies or procedures, it is not an ethical or proper course of action.

"Just because Chairman Copas has questions regarding the day-to-day business of the public health department does not mean that members of the board of health have acted in ways of misconduct or neglect of duty. We have acted in accordance with the board's bylaws and policies."

Some Iroquois County Board members also questioned whether action was necessary.

"The idea of asking them for a resignation, in my opinion, is an absolute slap in the face to people who have served for years and years in the best way that they can," Schultz said. "I don't think anybody can say anything about any one of them trying to do something out of line, something illegal, something conceived as misconduct or neglect."

Paxton Record correspondent Sandy Coffey contributed to this report.

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serf wrote on March 12, 2013 at 10:03 pm

I have no inside knowledge of what is really going on with all of this.  I will say, based solely on reporting in this newspaper, that this Copas fellow has not proved his case.  He's throwing out some serious allegations, but from what I understand, most (if not all) of those allegations were rebutted by members of the health board.  And quite frankly, their rebuttal made much more sense than Copas' allegations.

I don't have a dog in this fight, but I would urge those who have a say in the matter to tread cautiously without better evidence than what has been publicly presented.

By the way, does anyone else see the irony involving the Open Meetings Act violation?  Wasn't that something that the county board was trying to ding the health department on?  And they apparently couldn't get it straight themselves....

rsp wrote on March 13, 2013 at 3:03 am

I noticed that too. This seems personal, like he was embarrassed by the way they responded to his concerns, or maybe something else. But why replace just three members who have been on the board for so long, whose terms expire this year anyway? That's what I really don't get. Just don't reappoint them. In the meantime find out what's been going on that needs fixed. If anything. I hope there isn't a former relationship lurking behind all this.

MaggieMae242 wrote on March 13, 2013 at 7:03 am

Has Mr Copas made serious accusations without providing any actual evidence to prove his accusations?  The board members themselves yesterday questioned Mr Copas, as to why they have not yet recieved any documented evidence of wrongdoing.   Several of the board members requested this documentation, stating Mr Copas said "he would have the information given to them before the meeting yesterday."  However several of the board members say they have not yet recieved the information as promised. One board member stated that even criminals have the right to defend themselves, but not the accused board members.  The three board members terms all expire this year.  Why is there an urgency to remove the board members, asked one of the board members?  According to one board member, Mr Copas may not have followed proper procedure as he called the three specified board members and asked for their resignation, before the board actually voted to ask for their resignations.  Is that misconduct on his part?  Should the board members ask for his resignation?   I wonder if Mr Copas' long term agenda includes dismantling all services provided by the FIPHD, including Home Health Care, WIC, elderly assistance programs such as Pharmaceutical Assistance, Circuit Breaker, Energy Assistance, and Senior Health Insurance Programs, via dissolution of the Ford Iroquois Public Health Department.   I think the communities of Ford and Iroquois County should be aware of the possible long term consequences of these proceedings.  I guess my question is why does Mr Copas want to so urgently want to replace these three board members with ones he has hand picked?  What is on his agenda?