Wednesday, March 01, 2000

MRDD gets interim leader

Choice is handpicked by commissioners

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        LEBANON — With a strong push from Warren County commissioners, the mental retardation board approved the commission's handpicked choice Tuesday to temporarily replace the board's embattled former superintendent.

        John Lazares, superintendent of the Warren County Educational Service Center, was chosen temporary head of the county's Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities agency, provided Mr. Lazares' board agrees he can hold both posts.

        The appointment could become permanent, MRDD board member Fayetta Alexander suggested after the meeting.

        “I'd like to give the man a chance,” she said. “That's more than people have given us.”

        Mr. Lazares replaces Charlotte Marinacci, whose retirement was accepted Tuesday on a 3-2 vote of the MRDD board. Most board members present said they felt Mrs. Marinacci had done a good job despite heavy criticism recently.

        “I can't believe anything that was done was malicious,” said Dennis Blakeley. “She did what she thought was right.”

        But in the community, concerns about the high prices she paid for two houses — now being investigated by the prosecutor — had snowballed into other complaints about MRDD operations.

        Commissioners waded into the fray last week, directing the board to make changes under threat of being asked to resign. Although the county doesn't control MRDD, it appoints five of the seven board members.

        That threat hung unspoken Tuesday as Commissioners Mike Kilburn and Larry Crisenbery showed up unexpectedly for the MRDD meeting, calling it a continuation of their commission meeting.

        “Do we legally have to have a meeting with you?” asked Judy Koontz, board vice president.

        “No, but I would strongly suggest it,” Mr. Kilburn said.

        He and Mr. Crisenbery then called for Mr. Lazares to be chosen interim superintendent.

        An MRDD employee had been a candidate for the job. However, after an executive session, first with and then without the commissioners, the board voted for Mr. Lazares, with one abstention.

        Mr. Lazares could not be reached for comment Tuesday night, but commissioners said they had talked to him and he was willing to accept the job.


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