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Feds investigating Putnam Health Department

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Putnam County Health Department, which buckled in June after mounting financial problems, is the object of a federal investigation.

Details of the investigation, including if the investigation is related to the agency's recent financial problems, weren't clear Thursday.

The Putnam Health Department is "fully complying" with the investigation, according to Dr. Rahul Gupta, health officer and executive director of the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department, which took over clinical operations for the Putnam agency July 1.

According to Gupta, the investigation is not concerned with the Putnam department's dealings after July 1.

Allison Adler, communications director for the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, said she was made aware of the investigation Thursday morning. Adler said she didn't know if any other health departments in West Virginia are under investigation at the federal level.

Representatives of U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin's office did not return a phone call Thursday.

The Putnam health board voted to lay off the Putnam Health Department's entire staff in June, and contracted services with the Kanawha-Charleston department in July to avoid further financial insolvency.

 Earlier this year, Putnam health officials reported that the agency was nearly $400,000 in debt. The department is allotted $414,000 annually by the state, and Marian Swinker, commissioner for the West Virginia Bureau for Public Health, told the Gazette in May that her agency planned to keep a closer eye on the Putnam department.

Lolita Kirk, administrator for the Kanawha-Charleston department and interim administrator for the Putnam department, said she wouldn't comment on legal matters regarding ongoing investigations.

Putnam County Commissioner Andy Skidmore, who has been a member of the Putnam County Board of Health since July 1, said he was not aware of a federal investigation into the struggling agency.

"There's been no contact with myself or with the other board members I've spoken to," Skidmore said. "It's nothing that we're working with. There have been all kinds of rumors, because some of the threat-preparedness money is federal money, but nothing formal."

County Commission President Joe Haynes, who resigned from the Putnam health board June 30, said he also was not told about a federal investigation.

"Of course, health departments get county funding, state funding and federal funding," he said, "so, undoubtedly it would have something to do with the federal funding, but I don't have any idea what it would be."

Reach Lydia Nuzum at lydia.nuzum@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5189.


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