Commissioners say the mental health board is solely responsible for acting on trolling allegations

The whistleblower brought the matter to the attention of the commissioners

Richland County commissioners said Tuesday that the decision on how to handle performance issues raised against Joe Trolian, the county’s now-former executive director of mental health, rested squarely with the county’s Board of Mental Health and Rehabilitation Services.

The mental health board placed Trolian on administrative leave on Nov. 1 and voted 11-1 Monday night to terminate his contract for alleged “neglect of duty.”

“A whistleblower brought some behavior to our attention, we consulted with a lawyer, we brought it to the attention of the mental health board, and it was up to them to decide how they wanted to respond,” said Cliff Mears, commissioner liaison officer. The Mental Health and Rehabilitation Services Board said Tuesday: “They had a hearing last night and this is how they responded.”

The board filed a formal administrative charge accusing Trollian of paying thousands of agency dollars to Change Companies of Carson City, Nevada, which employs his wife, for training, treatment services and books, in violation of Ohio law.

Trolian told the board he did nothing wrong

The allegations came as commissioners voted Oct. 24 to accept mental health board member J.D. The resignation of Vakh, who, according to them, was financially benefiting from public funds in separate circumstances.

At a mental health board hearing Monday, Trolian said he did not use his influence or authority as CEO to secure the training contract in question with The Change Companies. He pointed out that the local agency was required by state law to use specific certified training standards and that the company had exclusive copyright on the editorial standards used.

Trolian also noted that in 2020, his wife became an independent consultant providing training for The Change Companies and was exclusively assigned to conduct the entire two-day skills training for the state of Ohio.

Commissioners were asked Tuesday if any other mental health agencies around the state used the same company and if there were alternatives. County Administrator Andrew Keller said commissioners saw and recorded that the contract between Change Companies and the Richland County Mental Health Board was signed by Trolian and exceeded $40,000, and some, if not all, of it. the services were provided by Trolyan’s wife.

“In our view, regardless of how widely available the services are, it is inappropriate for a public official to contract for services in excess of $40,000 with a company where the public official’s wife will provide many of those services,” Keller said. said:

In an email to the media after the commission meeting, Keller said that in the rare case where a company is the only one able to provide a particular service, Ohio Revised Code 2921.42 (C)(4) still prohibits an interested family member of a public official from making decisions. from participating, adding that the ban is “non-negotiable”.

He also noted that such a rare fact pattern would also require “full knowledge” of the political subdivision, presumably approved by the council and reflected in the minutes, indicating the removal of the concerned official from the process.

“At this time, we are not aware of formal board approval of that contract with the modification companies,” Keller said. “At this time, the board minutes that have been reviewed do not reflect that the board has taken formal action to confirm this. It was simply signed by the executive director.”

Trolian also blamed or contributed to the board member’s company

Keller worked in the civil division of the Richland County District Attorney’s Office handling legal matters for county offices before she was hired as county administrator.

Trolian was also accused of promoting Wach’s firm, JW Consulting, by emailing local agencies encouraging them to contract with JW Consulting or other local firms for a consulting agreement to promote their services as “Know It.” part of the program. Before They Need It’ campaign by the Mental Health Council. Trolian was on the board of Gravity Ohio, which worked with the campaign.

Trolian said at Monday’s hearing that he is not a voting member of Gravity Ohio and has no control over voting matters for individual board members. He also noted that JW Consulting’s contract was terminated as soon as the issue of conflict of interest with Vach was raised.

Commissioners stressed on Tuesday that they had not brought the issues to the Mental Health Board as part of a “witch hunt” or “revenge”. Commissioner Tony Vero said there has been a struggle over the makeup of the mental health boards because eight members are appointed by county commissioners and six are appointed by the state.

“It’s not like Ohio State Boards are doing anything improper. The discussion seems to be that when you have two different appointing authorities, it affects the chain of command of potential local control. This has been on file and has been discussed at the state level for some time, formally or informally,” Vero said. “You have two different appointing bodies appointing a very large board, and often it can create situations where that can be difficult to manage.”

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