Ex-health commissioner refuses to repay $31,000 overpayment

An audit by the state says Mark McDonnell, Greene County’s former health commissioner, received payment for too many accumulated annual leave days when he retired.

The former Greene County Combined Health District Commissioner who was ordered by the state to repay $31,146 he received in overpayment as part of a leave payout when his contract expired, has said he will not give the money back, according to the Greene County Prosecutor’s Office.

The prosecutor’s office has not made any additional moves to recover the money from Mark McDonnell while it determines whether there are conflicts of interest in pursuing the case, said Elizabeth Ellis, head of the civil division for the Greene County Prosecutor’s Office.

“We hope to make that determination soon,” Ellis said.

If the issue is considered a conflict of interest, the case will be referred to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.

Neither McDonnell or his attorney, Meril Wayman of Mowery Youell & Galeano, Ltd. based in Dublin, returned phone calls from this newspaper seeking comment.

Greene County Combined Health District board member Nancy Terwoord approved McDonnell’s payout and is also being held responsible for the $31,146, said Ohio Auditor of State Dave Yost in a letter dated Sept. 17.

Terwoord did not return a phone call from this newspaper seeking comment.

“On behalf of Melissa (Howell) and Ms. Terwoord, I can tell you that the issue is out of our hands …,” wrote Laurie Fox, a spokeswoman for the Greene County Combined Health District, in an email.

Howell was appointed county health commissioner in May 2013 before McDonnell was scheduled to retire the following month.

In September the Ohio auditor issued a finding for recovery after reviewing a 2013 independent health district audit, according to the letter the state auditor sent to McDonnell.

“‘No more than 30 days of Annual Leave may be accumulated for carry-over into the next year,’” wrote Yost quoting the health district’s employee manual. “Upon terminating his employment the former Health Commissioner was paid for his entire unused annual leave of 946 hours. Based on the contract of the former Health Commissioner and the policies governing Annual Leave, the Health Commissioner was entitled to receive 469 hours of annual leave payout upon his termination …The hours paid of 946 exceed the hours due of 469 by 477 hours.”

That same month, the Greene County Prosecutor’s Office sent McDonnell a letter asking him to contact the office about the state auditor’s finding for recovery.

“Pursuant to law, it is my duty to collect the full amount in favor the Greene County Combined Health District,” said the letter signed by Greene County Prosecutor Stephen Haller and Ellis.

The county prosecutor’s office declined to provide a copy of McDonnell’s attorney’s response to the state auditor’s finding for recovery stating it was considered a work product and therefore exempt from public record regulation. However, Ellis said McDonnell’s attorney pointed to a 1983 Ohio Attorney General’s Opinion that states “a general health district may formulate a policy concerning the payment of unused sick leave to its employees at retirement. The authority to adopt such policy isn’t limited by (Ohio) Revised Code 124.38-.39 or any other statutory provisions concerning the accumulation or payment of sick leave benefits.”

The health department was found to have a policy, Ellis said.

“The finding says they did adopt a policy that says … they did adopt an employee manual that says no more than 30 days of annual leave may be accumulated or carried over into the next year,” Ellis said.

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