CHAMPAIGN – The administrator for the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District resigned under pressure Monday, effective immediately.
David King, administrator for the past six years, lacked support from both employees and community groups affiliated with public health, said board of health Chairwoman Carol Elliott.
"Without that support, no administrator could be effective," Elliott said.
The news was greeted with applause from an audience of about 20 people, some of them members of the Friends of Public Health and the Champaign County Health Care Consumers, who had become increasingly critical of King's performance as administrator.
King, who was paid $101,000 annually, will receive three months severance pay.
Garry Bird, a longtime public health employee who is director of the environmental health division, was named interim administrator. He will receive 20 percent more than his current pay while he holds the additional duties.
The resignation came during an afternoon meeting of the board of health. The board went into closed session with King about 4:15 p.m. King walked out of the meeting about 20 minutes later, strode directly to his car, declining to talk to the media, and drove off.
The board of health voted unanimously to accept the resignation.
The board of health is made up of Elliott, the Cunningham Township supervisor; Linda Abernathy, the City of Champaign Township supervisor; and Barbara Wysocki, board chairwoman of the Champaign County Board.
King has been under evaluation by the board of health for six months, with the board holding numerous closed sessions.
Elliott declined other public comment aside from her prepared statement.
In recent years, the public health district has come under fire for its aggressive, and ultimately successful, campaign to overturn the 2003 recognition of the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees as the exclusive bargaining agent for about 85 district employees.
The district challenged, in court, emergency administrative rules issued by the Illinois Labor Relations Board to implement a new law that allowed the board to certify a union if more than half of the eligible employees signed cards requesting representation.
The Fourth District Appellate Court decided in the district's favor in December 2004. But critics argued the challenge was unnecessary and costly, as the public health district spent more than $131,000 over 18 months for legal services with the Chicago law firm of Seyfarth Shaw.
The district also laid off two dental hygienists in June 2004 who had been on the union's bargaining committee, a move that brought additional charges of union busting.
Claudia Lennhoff, executive director of Champaign County Health Care Consumers, said administrative problems at the district are numerous and severe.
"Public health in Champaign-Urbana under David King was going in the wrong direction," she said. "There's a lot of cleanup that will have to be done. It's a house that's not in order and has been sort of crumbling from inside."
Among the problems cited by Lennhoff:
– Serious accounting shortcomings. The board of health on Monday hired an outside accounting firm, Martin, Hood, Friese & Associates of Champaign, at a cost of $105 per hour, to improve the agency's accounting operations. "They will give us recommendations and indicate where supplemental staff might be needed," King said before his resignation.
– A failure to publish and file an annual report for the public health district since 2001, even though filing such a report is a requirement of state law.
– High turnover at the district's director of nursing position, which has been unfilled since April, and has seen four different directors, two of them interim, since March 2003.
– A failure to staff the district's two dental clinics with enough dental hygienists, leading to a situation where dentists are performing cleanings and doing other work that hygienists could perform. That has led to the district's clinics seeing fewer patients than they could, Lennhoff said.