Jefferson Health Board Fires Commissioner
STEUBENVILLE — The Jefferson County Board of Health fired Health Commissioner Nicole Balakos during a special meeting Thursday that left those in attendance with more questions than answers.
The announcement, made by board chairman Terry Bell after an executive session that lasted nearly an hour and half, shocked an audience of mostly local officials and created a testy scene inside the second floor meeting room of the Towers Building.
Balakos was not present at the meeting and could not be reached for comment Thursday night.
Several in the audience demanded to be heard from and questioned why a vote only took place after the termination was announced, but the meeting was abruptly adjourned and board members promptly left the room.
“Who voted? There was never a vote taken,” said Wintersville Council President Robert Martin who attended the meeting. “You came out (of executive session) and before you said anything about a vote, you pronounced that Nicole Balakos is terminated immediately.”
During the confusion, Bell stated his announcement was the motion, which was eventually seconded by Dr. Patrick Macedonia.
It was argued from multiple members of the audience that the chairman of the board cannot legally make the motion, which Bell refuted citing the board of health’s bylaws – holding up a copy of the bylaws.
Despite repeated objections from the audience and continued argument back and forth, a vote was taken.
“(A board member) can call a question, not a member of the audience,” Macedonia said.
Fiscal, Grants and PI Officer Kelly Wilson was in tears as she called the names for the roll call vote on the motion.
Once more outcry for public comments began, the meeting was quickly adjourned, creating a somewhat chaotic scene as the stunned audience realized the answers they were demanding were not coming.
“I suggest we follow the protocols of no public speaking,” Macedonia said.
Public participation was listed on the agenda for the special meeting, but never occurred.
Martin called it a “kangaroo court” as the board members left the room.
Animated discussion about the surprising termination carried over into the hallway, even after the board members were long gone.
The only explanation given by the board was that, upon their review, a violation of Ohio Revised Code section 2921.42 had occurred. Jefferson County Prosecutor Jane Hanlin, along with assistant prosecutor Shawn Blake participated in the executive session.
The section of the ORC cited is titled, “Having an unlawful interest in a public contract.”
Among those in attendance were Jefferson County Commissioner Tom Gentile, Steubenville Mayor Jerry Barilla, Steubenville 6th Ward Councilman Bob Villamagna and local community leader Royal Mayo.
“She was doing a good job for the county,” Mayo said after the meeting. “Why didn’t they have a vote after the executive session?”