Interim director and CFO fired by Cowley County Mental Health board

By: Jason Tarr Email
By: Jason Tarr Email

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WINFIELD, Kan. -- The Cowley County Mental Health and Counseling Board fired its interim executive director and chief financial officer Friday afternoon.

The board voted unanimously to fire Brenda Brown and Lacey Pool after convening an emergency meeting at the Cherokee Strip Land Museum, board attorney Chad Giles said.

Giles said he could not comment on the reason the women were fired saying, "It's a personnel matter." He says neither of the them were contractual employees.

The dismissals came just hours after local radio station KSOK aired its interview with Lacey Pool. In the interview, Pool criticized the board for creating a hostile work environment and for making questionable financial decisions.

During the interview Pool said one of those decisions involved a Christmas party that was catered by a board member.

Giles declined to comment on the accusations made by Pool.

He says the board has yet to fill the executive director and CFO positions.

The board had voted Tuesday to begin the process of extending an offer to Arkansas City businessman Mike Taylor, who has 27 years of experience in mental health. But Taylor says he learned the board was split on hiring him and decided to withdraw his name from consideration.

Giles says county leaders have made arrangements with an outside agency to help the center through the transition.

This is not the first shakeup atop the mental health center. Numerous parties involved say the center has gone through two executive directors and an interim director in just the past three years.

The previous executive director was dismissed in 2012 amid financial problems. At about the same time, the center asked the county commission for a $165,000 loan.

Giles says there have been some "unique situations" with the board over the past few years that has caused the board to be a bit more "hands on."

Even so, the board is not normally involved in personnel matters below the director position as it was in this case.

"This is something the board didn't want to have to do," Giles said. "Our focus remains keeping the mission of mental health on track. Providing that service to the clients is our main concern."

The Cowley County Commission is expected to discuss the situation during it's meeting Tuesday morning. The meeting is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. at the Cowley County Courthouse.

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