The Richland County Mental Health and Recovery Board voted 11-1 to fire longtime executive director Joe Troliano after about an hour of executive session Monday night.
At 17:30 at the agency, 87 E. First St.
Ron Moton cast the lone no vote and one other board member was absent.
At Trolian’s request, the media was allowed to remain in the boardroom instead of Trolian presenting his side of the story behind closed doors in an executive session.
Trolian said he was “disheartened” by the board’s action, having devoted the last 20 years of his life to the RCMH&RS board and the last 16 years as executive director.
“I’ve done everything I can to support and expand mental health addiction treatment services for this community,” Trolian said.
“The charges I’m facing here today are completely baseless,” he said. “I have always taken the utmost care in carrying out my duties as ethically as possible.” I have never used my professional authority or influence for personal gain or any other improper motive.”
A formal administrative complaint was filed Nov. 1 against Trolian for alleged neglect of duty and violations of the Ohio Ethics Code.
Trolianis is accused of paying thousands of dollars from the agency to his wife, Christy Ellis-Trolians’ company, The Change Companies of Carson City, Nevada, for training, treatment services and books, all in violation of Ohio law.
The background that led to the breakup
The mental health agency held an early morning meeting on Nov. 1 and placed the executive director on paid administrative leave.
Board President Susan Bemiller said at the time that there would be “written charges against CEO J. Troliana for dereliction of duty, in violation of (Ohio Revised Code) 2921.42A1 and (ORC) 2921.42A4 and the Ohio Ethics Code”.
ORC 2921.42A1 states that no public official shall knowingly do any of the following: “Authorize or use the authority or influence of the public official’s office to secure authorization for any public contract in which the public official, a member of the public official’s family, or any of the business an associate of a public official has an interest”.
Trolian is also charged with violating ORC 2921.42A4, “Having an interest in the profits or benefits of a public contract entered into by or for the use of a political subdivision or governmental agency or instrumentality with which a public official is connected;”
Previously, Bemiller said Trolian’s contract required the board to issue written charges in order to be heard. “And it’s his chance to share his side,” she said.
Trolian says the allegations were improperly presented
“Anything that can be taken as self-interest is just coincidental,” Trolian said at Monday night’s hearing. “I would first like to address the inappropriate manner in which the board addressed its allegations against me.” I received notice of the written charge against me on November 1, 2023. I immediately requested a hearing on the matter that same day. I have been informed of today’s date. I was not notified of today’s date until Tuesday, November 7, which gave me less than a week to prepare my defense. In addition, the notification did not provide me with adequate information to prepare a defense. It said I was facing charges of dereliction of duty under Ohio Revised Code Section 2921.42 A(1) and A(4) and Ohio Ethics Code 102.03. However, he did not provide any information about the actions I took that allegedly constituted dereliction of duty. Nor is he providing me with all the evidence he plans to use against me.
“I was left to speculate as to the nature of these allegations by looking at newspaper articles that contained misleading statements with no defense,” he said.
When the allegations were first reported, Trolian told the News Journal he declined to comment.
On Monday night, Trolian disputed the quoted sections of the ORC code, saying they were criminal statues, which he said was unfair. He said he had never been charged or convicted of any crime.
“If I did, I would at least have the opportunity to have my case heard before a joint jury of my colleagues.” And I would consider myself innocent until proven guilty. “I didn’t do anything illegal,” Trolian said. Also, he said, he couldn’t find anything called Ohio Ethics Code 102.03 and said he was left to guess whether the board was referring to ORC 102.3.
Trolian said he would do his best to fight the allegations, starting first with his wife’s company change training contract. He said he did his best to ensure all relevant legal requirements were met, as he and board chairwoman Susan Bemiller said ORC 292.42 has a four-part exception to the rule that was clearly met.
“The allegation that I violated this code is baseless,” he said.
Must meet the criteria of the American Society for Addiction Medicine
Next Trolian said Ohio Administrative Code 5122 requires all addiction treatment services certified by the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, including those provided by contract agencies of the Richland County Board of Mental Health and Recovery Services, to use the American Medical Association dependence or ASAM, criteria. If the agencies are Medicaid providers, then Ohio Administrative Code 5160 applies, which also requires the use of the ASAM criteria.
He said The Change Companies has exclusive copyright to the third edition of the ASAM criteria, the only edition in use from 2013 to November 2023. Only ASAM trainers with The Change Company can offer copyrighted training for the third edition of ASAM criteria, therefore, Trolian said, the Richland County MHRS board and other similar agencies across Ohio had to pay for training from The Change Company or Train for Change to meet that legal obligation.
Trolian went on to say that the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services has paid Change Companies to provide these trainings across Ohio before 2020, during 2020 and 2023.
“In May 2020, my wife Christy Ellis-Trolian became an independent consultant, not an employee, providing training for The Change Companies. She is the only trainer at The Change Company who has experience with addiction treatment services in Ohio,” Trolian continued. “So she is specially qualified to conduct these trainings.”
He said Christy was exclusively assigned by Change Companies to conduct all of the two-day skills-building training in Ohio, in person.
When the board asked for three days of leadership to implement ASAM, the company sent another trainer, Glenn Duncan, to conduct the training, since Christie doesn’t do that, Trolian said.
He said regardless of what he thought of his wife’s qualifications, he did not use his influence or authority as CEO to secure a contract to hire change companies to train the American Society for Addiction Medicine.
The Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addictions has authorized Ohio ADAMS boards to use grant funds to pay for The Change Companies training in 2022.
The RCMHRS Board voted to approve the commitment to The Change Companies, and funds were received from the Ohio MOS to pay for the training. The board did not question or deny any commitments during that time, Trolian said.
“The contract was with The Change Companies, not Christie herself,” he said.
Regarding allegations that Trolian made a $500 donation to a Leckington Schools play in which his daughter participated, Trolian said the RCMHRS was asked to sponsor a poster ad by the school’s music director and happened to be his the daughter had a role in the play.
Trolian said the music director also made an agreement with Richland Public Health that committed $1,000 toward the February 2023 performance of “Into the Woods.”
A member of the mental health board resigned in October
Richland County Commissioners voted Oct. 24 to accept the resignation of JD Wachs, a board member of the Richland County Mental Health and Recovery Services who they say benefited financially from public funds, in violation of Ohio law.
“This is quite problematic as a sitting committee member with additional data indicating that you personally voted for said monies to enrich yourself,” Commissioner Tony Vero said in an Oct. 23 email to Wax. “In addition, we also (are) receiving payments consisting of public dollars that you also personally approved as a board member of an organization known as Gravity Ohio.”
In an Oct. 24 interview with the News Journal, Wachs said he was not aware of any violations.
Trolian sat on the board of Gravity Ohio.
Trolian was also charged by Richland County commissioners with promoting Wax’s company, JV Consulting.
“We would like to continue to encourage agencies to a) build their ability to increase awareness of what they have to offer, b) promote their business and c) help people find out before they need it.” In doing so, I have attached an agreement to share funding with agencies for consulting contracts with JV Consulting introduced earlier this month by New Day Creative, James Boyd, who introduced last spring or any other local firm. Our deal is to pay 50% for up to 10 hours per month up to a total of $7,200 per year. If you wish to take advantage of this offer, please contact the consultant of your choice and work with them to meet the requirements outlined in the contract, sign the contract, and send it to me. If you have any questions, please contact me at your convenience. You don’t have to be a contract agency to take advantage of this offer, but it will be limited to a total of 7 agencies,” Trolian said in an email.
On Monday night, Trolian said he is not a voting board member and has no control over individual board member voting matters. As soon as there was a conflict of interest, Trolian said the JV Consulting firm’s contract was cancelled.
At the end of Monday’s hearing, Trolian asked the board to dismiss the administrative charges.
He left the building before the media could ask him for further comment.
The Board of Mental Health is expected to discuss the director selection at its regular meeting on Tuesday.
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