Health dept. official on leave after complaint
Written by ALEX ASPACHER Sentinel Staff Writer
Friday, 06 September 2013 08:35
Alleging unfair treatment and heated exchanges with her superior, an employee has filed a complaint claiming harassment and a hostile workplace environment at the Wood County Health District.
Bill Ault, director of administration, was placed on administrative leave with pay Aug. 29 after the complaint was sent via email to Health Commissioner Pam Butler, 10 members of the Board of Health, a union delegate and a union representative.
Butler said the matter is being investigated, including collecting written statements from those named in the complaint. Ault was escorted from the building Aug. 29 as any employee on leave would have been, and he was "calm" with "no reaction," according to Butler.
Every claim in the complaint is being investigated, Butler said, declining to comment on whether any misconduct has been found so far.
Filed by account clerk Sarah Hopple, the complaint details interactions of Hopple and other staff members with Ault between June 13 and Aug. 27.
On June 13, Ault allegedly became upset with Hopple when she asked about the consistency of unpaid lunch breaks, suggesting another employee was allowed to take a break at the end of the day rather than halfway through their shift as stipulated in the union contract.
"I stated if that were the case everyone would take it at the end of the day," the complaint reads, noting that Hopple was "in tears" by the end of the exchange.
"Bill got very upset and started yelling that if I minded my own business and worried about myself I wouldn't have all these issues. I stated I thought this was part of my job to check the time sheets that I enter and that (another employee) had agreed with me concerning the unpaid lunch and needing consistency with all employees. He said I don't agree with (the employee) and threw his hands up in the air and walked out of my office."
Hopple states she was told to take her concerns to Director of Nursing Ben Batey, who serves as acting health commissioner when Butler is out of the office. She met with Batey and several other employees the next day, one also expressing concerns about "Bill's temper."
"A concern was also brought up about Bill doing things with payables that (another account clerk) and I didn't understand and thought could be unethical," Hopple wrote.
The group met with Butler June 17, and "Pam said she would address the issues with Bill and we should not have to deal with that hostile work environment again," according to the complaint.
The next event listed occurred nearly two months later, when on Aug. 16, Hopple said Butler began asking who informed a member of the board of health of her concerns with Ault. "She said a certain BOH member was coming down on Bill and it was very serious," Hopple wrote.
Again on Aug. 19, Hopple claims she was questioned about going to the board. "She wanted to find out who did it."
The final interaction listed in the complaint came Aug. 27, when Hopple claims she and another account clerk were asked to speak with Ault about details of her recent promotion.
"Bill then stated that he wanted to talk about the proper chain of command. If we have issues we should go directly to him and if not him Pam. We are not to go to any other supervisor. Bill then stated that he was very upset about us going behind his back and having to deal with a certain BOH member. Bill then stated if he had known about this before our promotion we never would have received it," the complaint states.
Ault, hired as health district administrator in 2007, was named director of administration in 2010. He supervises 12 employees, and his responsibilities involve labor management, workers compensation, payroll, budgeting and union contract matters, among others.
Hopple, an account clerk, has been with the district since 2000.
Butler said she did not know of any prior discipline or prior problems with anger in Ault's history. His personnel file could not be obtained by the Sentinel by press time.
"I think we all have points at which we can lose our temper, but have I ever seen that temper toward me? No. Not toward me," Butler said.
The health district has met with an attorney in the county prosecutor's office.
Butler said a special meeting of the board of health may be called soon, but nothing has yet been scheduled.
Dr. Fleming Fallon, president of the Board of Health, said he did not wish to comment on the matter while it's being investigated.