Geauga County Commissioners are questioning the ethics of a new contract for the executive director of the Geauga County Mental Health and Rehabilitation Services.

Commissioners initially voted to approve two new members to the mental health board, Jennifer Malainey and former county commissioner Walter “Skip” Claypool, with Commissioner James Dvorak voting against Mr. Claypool’s nomination.

They then began questioning a recent action by the board to approve a new five-year contract for Executive Director James Adams, saying it was not done in a transparent way and provided Mr. Adams with an “outrageous amount of money.”

Mr. Adams denied doing anything wrong, adding the mental health board approved the contract with only one opposing vote.

He noted that he has been working for the same amount of money for the past 10 years and has not had a raise in five years. Five years ago, commissioners had raised an issue when raises as high as 20 percent were given to employees of the mental health agency. Mr. Adams agreed to forego his raise at that time to allow his employees to receive a raise.

Commissioner Timothy Lennon said the matter did not appear on the mental health board’s agenda before the meeting, leaving him to question the transparency involved.

Commissioner Ralph Spidalieri said the commissioners were “taken advantage of” because commissioner-appointed members were not part of the vote.

He said the state-appointed board members voted to approve the new contract, adding that Mr. Adams recommends those members to the state, who then rubber stamps them. He said it was “picking your own team.” He added that the contract was not brought up during budget hearings for the mental health agency.

Mr. Lennon agreed, saying he could not think of anyone, besides LeBron James, who gets to dictate his own contract.

Mr. Lennon said he did not know where the action was legal but said it wasn’t transparent.

Commissioners said they would be seeking an explanation from the mental health board members.

Mr. Spidalieri said he had called for Mr. Adam’s resignation in 2012 after the issue with the proposed raises. “We’re right back where we started again,” he said.

He added that the timing was poor, given that the mental health agency is seeking a renewal of a levy this November.

Mr. Adams said he had contacted each of the commissioners seeking to speak with them as a group or individually, but the only commissioner to respond was Mr. Dvorak.

He said the commissioners appointed two new members last week, but did not notify him of those appointments.

He said commissioners were supposed to have new members appointed by June, but did not have them in place when the contract was brought up.

“I’ve been working without a contract for more than a year,” Mr. Adams said.

The contract runs from Aug. 1, 2018 through July 31, 2023.

Mr. Adams said it is not unheard of for an item not to be included on an agenda that is set by the board, not him. He said there are times when a committee makes a recommendation just before a board meeting and that recommendation is added to the agenda.

Joseph Koziol Jr. started his career in journalism in 1981. He joined the Solon Times in 1992 and covered the city of Solon for 10 years. An award winning reporter, Mr. Koziol has been covering Geauga County since 2012.

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