In a meeting that wasn’t supposed to be a meeting, the Wood County Veterans Services Commission executive director, who is under fire for her salary, announced her retirement.
Mary Hanna, in a Tuesday telemeeting, said she plans on retiring Jan. 1. She said she had announced the retirement previously, but not to the board.
Hanna, who has worked for the board for 46 years, had her salary put into the spotlight last week when the Wood County Commissioners sent a letter to the veterans services board, questioning her $150,217.60 annual pay.
The board set up a telemeeting for Tuesday, due to coronavirus concerns, but inaccurate information about how to log in was provided to the Sentinel-Tribune. The newspaper reporter had received a second phone number and login, and that was used to get into the meeting, about five minutes after the 12:30 p.m. start time.
Hanna said that the correct login information was provided in other formats, such as on the door to the veterans office in Bowling Green.
“I can’t speak to what was done on the other part. It’s over. It was not done intentionally. It was an honest mistake,” Hanna said. “All I can do is apologize. I’m truly sorry.”
Most, if not all, board members joined the Tuesday meeting eventually, along with Linda Holmes, an assistant attorney in the civil division of the Wood County Prosecutor’s Office.
“I’ve got to say this, too. Since we’re all around the phone, this constitutes a meeting,” one of the board members said.
Some of the board members on the phone said that they had hoped to discuss the commissioners’ June 2 letter, which said that Hanna’s salary is far more than any other county leader, and exceeds the pay of her peers.
The issue came to light as the veterans services board submitted its 2021 appropriations request, which was due May 31 to the commissioners, said Andrew Kalmar, county administrator.
“The one unfortunate part of the VSC request is the salary of your executive director — currently $150,217.60. This amount is at least $20,000 more than any other VSC director in the state,” the commissioners wrote.
During the Tuesday phone meeting, Hanna said she would retire Jan. 1.
Holmes said the meeting should stop.
“We should discontinue the meeting because members of the public who wanted to attend could not,” Holmes said. ” We need to discontinue what we are doing now.”
She added that the board did not have a validly-convened public meeting.
“It’s just a discussion,” Hanna said.
“I don’t want to have any more discussion,” Holmes said. “It’s one thing to discuss the mistakes about the notice and straighten it out. But to discuss substantive matters, that’s public business and I don’t want to do that.”
The board will most likely meet next Tuesday at 12:30 p.m. The meeting information will be published when it is received.
In an interview last week, Kalmar said that Hanna’s annual pay has increased by $50,000 since 2015.
“We’ve known for quite some time that she was being paid a lot of money,” Kalmar said, adding that the veterans services board also gave 5% raises to employees almost every year, except for 2020. That year it was 3%, keeping in line with the county, he said.
“Five percent is way out of line,” Kalmar said.
The commissioners have asked all county offices to not have pay raises in their 2021 budgets, which are due at the end of the year, due to coronavirus fallout, he said. The veterans services budget, however, was due by May 31.
“And they did that, there’s no wage increase in there,” Kalmar said of the 2021 veterans services budget. “It’s just that $150,000 number jumped off the page.”
New board members have recently been appointed to the Wood County Veterans Services Commission Board and Kalmar said that he hopes changes are made.
Joe Fawcett, who joined the board in January, released a statement last week.
“The Wood County Veterans Service Commission acknowledges receipt of the Wood County Board of Commissioners letter dated May 29, 2020. The VSC has scheduled a meeting in order to discuss the letter in greater detail. We look forward to a productive conversation with the board of county commissioners moving forward.”
Other board members would not comment.
Hanna was inducted into the 2019 Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame last fall.
She is a U.S. Air Force veteran who served from 1968-72 as a medical specialist in the Philippines at Clark Air Force Base hospital caring for casualties evacuated by air from Vietnam. She is also the executive director of the Wood County Veterans Assistance Center. She has worked there for 46 years. She started in that office as a caseworker and investigator.
(A sentence has been added to this, saying that Hanna said during the meeting that she had previously announced her intent to retire, but had not yet said it officially to the board.)