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Commission split over MR/DD board pick

Tempers flared Thursday morning when the Lawrence County Commission voted 2-1 to appoint a new member to the county's Board of Mental Retardation/

Developmental Disabilities.

Dan Russell, a member of the board for more than 20 years, officially submitted his resignation to the commission Thursday. The Lawrence County Prosecutor's Office last week rendered an opinion that Russell is no longer eligible to be on the board since he missed in-service training last year.

In submitting his resignation, Russell asked that his son, Doak, be appointed in his place. Commission President Jason Stephens made a motion that the commission appoint the younger Russell, noting that the he, like his father, lives in the eastern part of the county and that the MR/DD board needs representation from that end of the county. Commissioner Paul Herrell seconded the motion to the apparent dismay of Commissioner George Patterson.

"I had no call ahead of time (and) didn't know this was going to come up," Patterson said. "Others knew. This is upsetting me that we didn't have a number of qualified names to consider before this came about.

"I don't approve of the way this is being handled. It's a slap in the face to anyone who ever wanted the position."

Patterson said several people have called him asking to be on the board. One individual lives in the Symmes Valley school

district and another lives in the Rock Hill district. One man who asked to be considered, Joe McSweeney, attended the Thursday meeting.

"In my opinion, there were definitely some meetings ahead of time and to me this was no way to do business," Patterson said.

"Don't you accuse me of nothing," Herrell said.

"There was no discussion on this," Patterson countered.

"I agree with Jason, it should be someone from the eastern end of the county," Herrell said.

"What about Rock Hill?" Patterson asked. "They don't have anyone on the board. Do you pick someone because he's from some area?"

"Don't accuse me of having meetings, I tell you that right now," Herrell said.

"I said 'in my opinion,'" Patterson said. "I have a right to my opinion."

At one point Patterson left the meeting area and went to a private room where he got a cup of coffee and came back to the commission chambers. Immediately afterward, Stephens adjourned the meeting.

Stephens said after the meeting that he had also been contacted by several people and that he respected them. However, he said he feels Doak Russell is as qualified as anyone else to be on the board, adding that he has a brother-in-law who is an MR/DD client.