Hancock Health Board To Select New Officer

The Hancock County Board of Health will decide today on an interim public health officer following the abrupt resignation of its health officer earlier this week.

The move was expected Wednesday. However, contractual commitments prevented the chosen doctor from accepting the post on an interim basis.

During an emergency meeting Wednesday, the board approved the selections of board member John Plesa to serve as the board’s new chairman on a permanent basis, while also selecting Plesa and Hancock County Sheriff Ralph Fletcher to serve as signatories.

They will be responsible for signing and negotiating checks on the board’s behalf.

The motion passed 2-0 with Plesa abstaining.

The move comes following the fallout from Tuesday’s meeting, in which public health officer Dr. Anna Suray and board member Phil Rujak both unexpectedly resigned their positions shortly after the board approved, 3-0, to amend its smoking ban and allow smoking at Mountaineer Casino and video lottery cafes throughout the county.

The smoking ban, which was instituted in 2014, prohibits smoking in all public places.

The partial overturn of the ban on Tuesday does not include restaurants and other public places, to which the ban remains in effect.

According to reports, the decision for the partial overturn Tuesday was to boost the tax base in order to handle other health initiatives, a move that both Suray and Rujak were strongly against and was also met with resistance from one member of the public in attendance and a health department employee.

Both Suray and Rujak had served as signatories for the board. Because of their resignations, no one had authority to sign checks for the board.

The board called the meeting Wednesday with plans to select Dr. John Capito to take over for Suray on an interim basis until a permanent public health officer could be found.

The board stated in a release prior to Wednesday’s meeting, “It is necessary and important that any health services for county citizens continue uninterrupted.”

However, Plesa said Capito — who in the release was reported to be willing to handle the job – had to be eliminated from consideration because of an exclusivity agreement made with a Hancock County hospital.

“We were just notified by Dr. Capito that he has an exclusivity contract with Weirton Medical Center, which prevents him from serving, even in an interim basis as the public health officer,” Plesa said.

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