WINFIELD, W.Va. -- A former Putnam County Health Department sanitarian has won an appeal of her second wrongful termination case against the Putnam County Board of Health -- a case that contributed to the health department's recent financial problems.
Kanawha Circuit Judge Duke Bloom last week agreed with an administrative law judge that Barbara Koblinsky was fired unfairly and awarded her limited back pay in his decision. Koblinsky has sued the health board once before over being fired, and won that case too.
The health board could still appeal Bloom's decision to the state Supreme Court.
According to Gordon Simmons, a representative of the West Virginia Public Workers Union who has served as Koblinsky's union counsel, Koblinsky will not try to get her job back with the health department -- which would have presented a problem for the struggling agency.
The Putnam County Board of Health voted in June to lay off its entire staff, and has contracted its clinical services with the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department.
The health department is more than $250,000 in debt, partly because the department hired Charleston attorney Karen Miller to defend them against Koblinsky's complaint. The health board has paid Miller more than $100,000 and still owes her more than $20,000.
"The lawyers ... paid handsomely by the county knew they could bill the agency regardless of the outcome," Simmons said. "Putnam County residents need to ask some hard questions of their elected officials and public administrators."
Joe Haynes, Putnam County Commission president and a health board member until last month, said the board did not know about payments to Miller, and that former health board administrator Jackie Fleshman paid lawyer bills without approval from the health board.
"The reason they hired outside counsel is that they felt like the person they hired was an expert in labor matters; that was the justification," Haynes said Monday. "The board was aware of the hiring and approved the hiring. The board did not have any idea the amounts of money that were being paid."