YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — Mahoning County Commissioners said Friday they intend to be a part of the process of hiring a new director for the county’s Board of Developmental Disabilities.
Thursday, as our station was receiving results of a survey conducted last fall with workers at the facility in Austintown, commissioners were meeting with the five board members they appointed to discuss what’s been happening there recently.
The board hired Rachel Livengood with Labor/Management Consultant Services from Troy, Ohio, to do the survey. The results are dated Oct. 10, 2013. The board suspended Duck in September.
Livengood and the Mahoning County Human Resources Department have had a history of conflict with Duck, specifically regarding an employee’s worker compensation claim.
In the past year, longtime MCBDD superintendent Larry Duck was placed on leave by the board for reasons that have never been explained, only to resign last month with a six-figure severance package.
We then learned 40 of the board’s 350 employees were chosen for a survey about the facility’s managers. The results suggest supervisors were not treating employees equally, leading to what some called a culture of fear and intimidation.
“You can’t say that. When you speak to people that are in the workforce that are scard and afraid to say things because of retaliation, then there’s a problem,” said Mahoning County Commissioner Carol Righetti. “What some of [the board members] fail to realize is that when you say Mahoning County, you encompass all of us and the commissioners are brought into that mix immediately.”
But there already are questions over how the survey was conducted.
“I would have liked to see a more consistent application of how the different responses were categorized,” said Youngstown State University math and statistics professor Tom Wakefield.
He has concerns about what our station first reported last night: The same responses were seen as “negatives” in some instances and “positives” in others. In addition, Wakefield wondered why all of the board’s employees were not surveyed.
“I would have concerns about the way that it was conducted. And I would want to know more information about how the sample was conducted, why only 40 individuals were chosen instead of a larger sample size,” Wakefield said.
Erika Thomas spoke with Larry Duck on the phone Friday morning.
He said Rachel Livengood’s name was brought up at three separate board meetings, with the first time being in March 2013. He said he told the board all three times that, in his opinion, she would not be credible and believable.
Duck said he was concerned about Livengood’s proximity to commissioners and local politics. He also had issues with the methodology and how participants were chosen.
In the meantime, commissioners have sent a letter to all seven of the board members asking that no permanent replacement for Duck be hired until problems suggested through the survey, along with complaints from families of MCBDD clients, can be thoroughly reviewed.
“Have somebody come in, look at the oversight of that agency, find out things that are maybe not right, or wrong, and continue to fix them,” Righetti said.
County commissioners also asked to have a voice in whoever ultimately is hired to replace Duck.
We’ll continue to ask questions and update you as we uncover the latest.