Whistleblower brought the case to the attention of the commissioners
Richland County commissioners said Tuesday that the decision on how to address performance issues that have been raised against former county Mental Health Executive Director Joe Trolian was strictly up to the Board of Health Services Mental and Recovery of the count.
The mental health board placed Trolian on administrative leave on Nov. 1 and voted 11-1 Monday night to terminate his contract for alleged “neglect of duty.”
“A whistleblower brought certain behaviors to our attention, we consulted legal counsel, we brought this to the attention of the mental health board and it was up to them to make a decision how they wanted to respond,” President Cliff Mears, the link of the commissioner to the Commissioner. The Mental Health and Recovery Services Council said on Tuesday: “Last night was their hearing and this is how they responded.”
The board filed formal administrative charges accusing Trolian of paying thousands of agency dollars to Change Companies of Carson City, Nevada — the company that employs his wife — for training, treatment services and books in violation of the law of the l Ohio.
Trolian said on board that he did nothing wrong
The allegations were made as commissioners voted on October 24 to accept the resignation of mental health board member JD Wach, who they alleged benefited financially from public money in separate circumstances.
During Monday’s Mental Health Board hearing, Trolian said he did not use his influence or authority as executive director to secure the training contract in question with The Change Companies. He indicated that the local agency was required by state law to use specific certified training criteria and that the company had an exclusive copyright on the edition of the criteria that was used.
Trolian also noted that in 2020 his wife became an independent consultant providing training for The Change Companies and was assigned exclusively to conduct all Ohio, in-person, two-day skills training.
Commissioners were asked Tuesday if other mental health agencies around the state used the same company and if there were alternatives. County Administrator Andrew Keller said that what the commissioners saw and what was on the record was that the contract between the Change Companies and the Richland County Mental Health Board was signed by Trolian, was more than $40,000, and that some, if not all, of the services were provided by Trolian’s wife.
“In our opinion, regardless of how widely available the services are, it is not appropriate for a public official to contract with a company for the provision of services of more than $40,000 where the public official’s wife provides many of those services,” Keller. he said.
Keller said in an email to the media after the commissioners’ meeting that in the rare case where a company is the only one capable of providing a particular service, Ohio Revised Code 2921.42(C) (4 ) also prohibits a public official with an interested family member from participating in the decision, adding that the prohibition is “non-negotiable”.
He also noted that such a rare fact model also requires “full knowledge” of the political subdivision – presumably approved by the council and reflected in the minutes – noting the removal of the official concerned from the process.
“At this point, we are not aware of formal board approval of that contract with the Exchange Companies,” Keller said. “At this point, the board minutes that have been looked at do not reflect that the board took formal action to approve this. It was just signed by the executive director.”
Trolian also accused or promoted the company of board members
Keller worked in the civil division of the Richland County Prosecutor’s Office handling legal issues for county offices before being hired as county administrator.
Trolian was also accused of promoting Wach’s company, JW Consulting, by sending an e-mail to local agencies encouraging them to contract with JW Consulting or other local firms for a consulting agreement to raise awareness of its services as and part of a “Know It”. Before you need “campaign from the Council of Mental Health. Trolian was on the board of Gravity Ohio, which worked with the campaign.
Trolian said during Monday’s hearing that he is not a voting member of Gravity Ohio and has no control over individual board members’ voting matters. He also noted that JW Consulting’s contract was terminated as soon as the conflict of interest issue with Wach was raised.
Commissioners stressed on Tuesday that they did not bring the issues to the Mental Health Board as part of a “witch hunt” or to be “vindictive”. Commissioner Tony Vero said there has been a struggle over the makeup of the mental health boards because eight members are appointed by the county commissioners and six are appointed by the state.
“It’s not that state boards across Ohio are doing anything improper. It seems the discussion is that when you have two different appointing authorities, it impacts a chain of command for potentially local oversight. This has been on the docket and it has been discussed at the state level for some time, either formally or informally,” Vero said. “You have two different appointing authorities appointing a very large board and often times that can create situations where it could be difficult to manage.”
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