Counties' officials split on proposed health board firing
WATSEKA — The Iroquois County Board chairman said Friday that he expects his board to uphold a committee's decision to recommend the removal of the Ford-Iroquois Public Health Department's embattled administrator.
But the chairman of the Ford County Board, which also must approve the measure, said he remains unconvinced such action is warranted.
"I'm very anxious to get the health department back to some type of normalcy, and if this is what it takes, so be it," Ford County Board Chairman Rick Bowen said.
"But I'm not totally comfortable with the request that Iroquois County is making. I just still don't see any reason to go to that level."
Public Health Administrator Doug Corbett has been a target of criticism by Iroquois County officials in recent months, most recently over a $128,000 contract the agency awarded to the husband of a health department employee for the installation of solar panels on the agency's offices.
On Thursday morning, following a nearly one-hour closed session, the Iroquois County Board's finance committee voted unanimously to recommend to the public health board and Ford County Board to remove Corbett as administrator of the health department in the "most expedient way possible."
The full Iroquois County Board will vote on the committee's recommendation during its meeting that begins at 9 a.m. Tuesday at the Clifford Bury Administrative Center, 1001 E. Grant St., Watseka.
"We just need to get Public Health back on track," Iroquois County Board Chairman Rod Copas said.
Corbett, when reached Friday, said he had "no comment at this time."
Copas said he has "no doubts in my mind" that his board will approve the action. Copas noted that he has talked with several other board members about it, adding that "a majority" of the 20-member board was present Thursday.
Copas said he has also spoke "several times in the last week" with Bowen.
Bowen said he is not expecting his board to discuss the matter during its meeting Monday night, but he said plans are underway to set up a meeting for next Thursday between himself and Copas and the state's attorneys from each county to "try to get the county boards on the same page."
Bowen stressed that he was not "totally comfortable" with the measure being taken.
"There's been a lot of hearsay and a lot of conversation of wrongdoing, but there's been no facts presented," Bowen added.
When asked if he saw no issue with the awarding of a $128,000 contract to the husband of health department Freedom of Information Act officer Julie Clark, Bowen said: "When talking with Doug (Corbett), there's explanations on both sides. And, again, there's nothing criminal there. Is it a bad business decision? Perhaps. But it's not criminal."
According to Bowen, Ford County State's Attorney Matt Fitton agrees that there has been no evidence of criminal wrongdoing.
In April, the Illinois attorney general's office decided not to pursue criminal charges against anyone at the health department after completing a review of information provided by Copas and Iroquois County State's Attorney Jim Devine.
Corbett has been administrator of the health department since March 1, 2008, following the retirement of Dr. John A. Pickering. A native of Belleville, Corbett came to the health department following a 31/2-year tenure as administrator of the Perry County Health Department in Pinckneyville.
The next public health board meeting will be at 7 p.m. July 15 at the Gilman-Danforth District Library in Gilman.