The Geauga County Board of Health now is in the process of finding new leadership for Geauga Public Health after firing Health Commissioner Thomas Quade last week during a meeting where angry residents voiced complaints about a Facebook post on COVID-19 vaccines.
Health Board President Richard Piriano told the Times that the board was in the process of making decisions about managing the department. The board was to hold a special meeting on Wednesday.
During the Aug. 25 meeting, Mr. Piriano said it was “unfortunate” that the Facebook post on Mr. Quade’s personal page was found to be insulting to the public and impacted the public perception of Geauga Public Health.
Mr. Quade previously said the post was meant to be sarcastic and thus misunderstood by some. He apologized and deleted the Facebook page.
“The content of the post in question was not made by the Geauga Public Health Board and is not indicative or representative of the missions and goals of this department,” Mr. Piriano said in a video of the Aug. 25 meeting that was posted online by the Geauga County Maple Leaf.
Mr. Quade last week again apologized to the 200 people at the meeting, as well as his staff and the members of the board, stating that he accepted a variety of both professional and personal responsibilities when the board hired him in 2019.
Mr. Quade said in the video of the meeting that although the action of posting the politically oriented content was not against the rules of the agency or the law, he realized that it resulted in negative attention that “might have otherwise been avoided.”
The posts were in reference to the resistance of some to get the coronavirus vaccine.
Guidance during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has been a controversial issue in Geauga County including recommendations to wear masks indoors at schools.
Mr. Quade thanked the individuals who brought the concerning matters to his attention and made assurances during the meeting that he would “do better.” The post was a mistake, he said.
Mr. Quade’s annual salary was $105,000 under his contact that was to go through Dec. 31, 2024.
Board members said they reached out to many individuals over the last couple of weeks, including Geauga County residents, township trustees and the Geauga County Commissioners, who on Aug. 17 agreed to write a letter of discontent about Mr. Quade to the health board.
The commissioners’ letter said Geauga County thrives on stability and structure and Mr. Quade caused “instability” with his actions. Citizens questioned Mr. Quade’s motives behind policies made by the board and worried about any upcoming events within the county, the letter stated.
Mr. Quade’s demeanor is “condescending” towards citizens who have reached out to him with questions or clarifications, the letter said.
Commissioner James Dvorak told the Times that residents made their voices heard regarding Mr. Quade’s leadership of Geauga Public Health.
“What happened to this person [Mr. Quade], he did to himself,” Mr. Dvorak said.
Commissioner Ralph Spidalieri told the Times that while someone at the level Mr. Quade had with the county would use his social media platforms to identify his personal beliefs was an unfortunate situation, he wouldn’t have initiated the actions to write the letter calling for Mr. Quade’s discipline if the concerns from the county weren’t serious.
“I was a little disturbed with what he said, and I believe he should have been held responsible for his statements, and obviously he did,” Mr. Spidalieri said.
Russell Township Trustee Jim Mueller told the Times that Mr. Quade performed his duties competently and did a “good job.”
While Mr. Mueller pointed out that Mr. Quade’s “greatest sin” was expressing personal opinions on his personal Facebook page, he finds the situation interesting.
“The people who are accusing him of wrongdoing are the same people who are supposedly big defenders of the First Amendment, which allows freedom of speech,” Mr. Mueller said.
Mr. Mueller said the former health commissioner chose to use his freedom of speech to air controversial opinions which “cost [Mr. Quade] dearly.
“I would’ve preferred that the board of health would have waited a little while,” Mr. Mueller said.
Mr. Quade’s guidance during the coronavirus pandemic that began in early 2020 has been lauded by some in the county.
Kenston Board of Education President Beth Krause said that Mr. Quade received a commendation from the board on June 28 recognizing his guidance that helped the school district return to in-person learning for the 2020-2021 school year. She declined to comment on his contract termination.
While the Geauga County Board of Health did not make a public comment regarding the next steps, including the process of finding a replacement director for the county, a statement was released on Aug. 26.
“The Geauga County Health Board holds all of our employees to the highest standards,” the statement read. “Last night, following an executive session, the board decided to go in another direction regarding the future leadership of the health district. We would like to thank Tom Quade for his service to Geauga County. Geauga Public Health remains dedicated to serving our residents’ needs with the utmost professionalism.”
Mr. Dvorak said on Monday that the commissioners have not heard any news from the agency regarding a search for a new health commissioner.