• 46°

Prosecutor: MR/DD board member ineligible

The Lawrence County Prosecutor's Office issued its opinion on the legality of Lawrence County Mental Retardation/Developmental Disabilities board member Dan Russell's reappointment.

In a letter to the Lawrence County Commission, Assistant Prosecutor Jeffrey M. Smith said that Russell's reappointment in January of this year was indeed invalid, since he did not take the required in-service training last year.

His letter agreed with an opinion put forth late last month from Ohio State MR/DD Board legal counsel Christine Oliver. Oliver stated in her letter to the commission that because Russell failed to take the training in 2001 he was not eligible to be on the board in 2002 and his re-appointment by the county commission was invalid.

State law requires that each year, board members complete a specific number of in-service training hours. Russell had told officials that he had been ill and could not attend the training.

"Note … that this opinion letter should not be construed as an opinion regarding the personal or professional suitability of Mr. Russell to serve on the Lawrence County's Board of MRDD. Our conclusion is based solely upon an analysis of Ohio Revised Code Sections controlling the question, which mandates this conclusion regardless of the reason Mr. Russell did not attend an in-service training session during a previous term," Smith wrote in his letter.

Commissioners reviewed the letter shortly after adjourning from their weekly meeting Thursday morning.

Two MR/DD board members, Karen Gillespie and Sharon Odekirk, attended the meeting.

"It's sad anytime we lose a board member," Gillespie said. "But we must be in compliance with state law."

"I regret that this ever happened," County Commissioner Paul Herrell said. "Dan Russell has been a good board member. I hate it, but you have to go by the law. We had no idea that Dan Russell did not take the training. We realize he had been sick."

Commissioners said they have recently fielded phone calls from people who have heard about the situation and want to take Russell's place on the board. Commissioner George Patterson said he had gotten three phone calls from interested parties. Herrell said he had gotten one.

"We'll have to check their names and qualifications," Herrell said. "We don't want to do anything to damage the MR/DD program."

The issue with Russell's in-service training became known last month. A secretary at the MRDD office was collecting

information necessary to certify that all board members met state requirements, and discovered what had happened. Former Superintendent Jimmie Thacker brought the matter to the county commssion’s attention.

Attempts made to contact Russell for comment Friday morning were unsuccessful.