Candidate questions leave of absence

Published 10:24 am Friday, September 16, 2016

Collins takes third leave from DJFS to campaign

A decision to allow Lawrence County Department of Job and Family Services assistant director and Republican county commission candidate Christopher Collins a leave of absence from the DJFS was questioned by his opponent at Thursday’s commission meeting.

The leave marks the second time this year Collins has taken extended time off from his job with the county for campaign purposes, and the third leave of absence over all. The first was from Jan. 18-March 18 and was without pay.

His most recent leave of absence was an unpaid two-week leave in June, which he said was to meet with businesses to bring jobs back to the county.

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Democratic commission candidate and Collins’ opponent, DeAnna Holliday, questioned the commissioners about the leave of absence.

“The decision this time was made by (DJFS director) Terry Porter, who said everything was under control,” commission president Les Boggs said, confirming that Collins is under a leave of absence. “This particular leave was not on the commissioners.”

Collins’ leave of absence began on Monday and will run through Nov. 9 after the election.

Holliday then asked the commissioners if their involvement in the department and this particular position hampers the department’s ability to properly operate.

“With all the time he’s absent, it would be hard to do employee evaluations and to see if he’s doing everything he should be doing,” Holliday said.

Boggs responded by once again saying that Porter made the decision, and that Holliday is able to submit that question to him to be answered.

“The director, according to policy, has the right to make that decision,” Boggs said.

The commissioners approved Collins’ first two leaves of absence, but with Porter making the decision to allow Collins this leave of absence, no commission vote had to be taken.

“We have a position, which I feel is vital to people’s needs in this county, and it seems like the position is vacated more than it’s been filled,” Holliday said. “It’s one of the highest paid positions there. In the past, that particular position has been very involved on a daily basis. If they feel like they don’t need it to operate on a daily basis, which isn’t how I feel, then let’s redirect that salary to more case workers or people on the front line.”

Holliday added that she feels Porter has been put in a bad position with power taken away from him.

Porter sent a letter to the commissioners regarding Collins’ leave, dated Sept. 1.

“Mr. Collins has previously been granted two prior unpaid leave of absences. Thus I shall continue with this precedent and recommend the leave of absence. I believe his unpaid leave of absence from LCDJFS would provide a notable cost saving to the agency while still maintaining the operational needs while providing client services to the individuals of Lawrence County,” Porter states in the letter. “Furthermore, this leave of absence would eliminate any potential unnecessary distractions within the agency.”

Holliday said she just wants the public to know what’s going on.

“We’re opponents in the race, which brings a different dynamic,” Holliday said. “However, we need to ask ourselves, is this the kind of work ethic we need in the county? If you can’t show up for work over there, what makes county commissioner any different?”

Collins, who wasn’t at the meeting, said his mission of becoming a county commissioner is the reason he took the leave of absence.

“When I came back to Lawrence County, I came to strengthen our families and our communities, to facilitate improvement in the struggling area where I grew up by putting to use the insight I gained working at the state level. Ultimately, it was in effort to help give those whom I love and care deeply about hope,” Collins said in an emailed statement. “Despite any political ploys by my opposition, that’s exactly what I’m continuing to do now by getting out and taking my message to the voters of Lawrence County, that it’s time to come together with common goals as leaders and put to rest the divisiveness, collaborate and innovate. I care deeply enough about this county that I am willing to forego compensation to do so. It is vital that we, not only as a nation, but as a county, get back on track and start lifting people up rather than tearing one another apart and thwarting progress.”

Also at commission, the commissioners:

• Approved and signed the weekly invoices and certificates as presented by the Auditor’s office.

• Approved floodplain permits.

• Received and filed the dog warden report dated Aug. 20, 2016.

• Approved 14 transfer funds.

• Approved three appropriate funds.

• Approved the out of county travel request for Sharon Hager and Kim Estep to travel to Columbus for continuing education on Sept. 19-20.

• Hired Justin Johnson as a full-time paramedic effective Sept. 14, 2016, as requested by Buddy Fry, executive director of EMS.

• Received and filed the prosecutor conviction summary from July 2015-July 2016 in accordance with the Ohio Revised Code.

• Authorized the administrator to proceed with necessary bond document(s) for a truck purchase for the dog shelter in the amount of $32,000.

• Motioned to study a request for funding in the amount of $4,000 for 2016 and a minimum of $10,000 each year thereafter for operating expenses for the Transportation Improvement District (TID).

• Received and filed the 2016 Union Rome Delinquency list to be placed on taxes.

• Approved and signed three owner voluntary demolition agreement(s).

• Approved and signed the 2017 County Employee Health Insurance renewal with CEBCO with an increase of 0.4 percent.

• Approved and signed the General Obligation Note in the amount of $200,000 for county auditor equipment. It is five years at an interest rate of 2.25 percent through the County Treasurer Neighborhood Investment Program.

• Approved a donation of $1,500 to support the Lawrence County Fire School.

• Received a quote of $235,641 from Lawrence County Sheriff Jeff Lawless regarding seven new cruisers for the sheriff’s department.