Frech Brings Misconduct Allegations Against Him To Light< < Back to
A pre-disciplinary conference is scheduled for next week concerning allegations that Jack Frech, director of the Athens County Department of Job and Family Services, has committed misconduct.
The conference is slated to be held during next Tuesday’s meeting of the county commissioners.
The allegations were made public Wednesday by Frech himself, who said the conduct of Commission President Lenny Eliason during an investigation led to Frech experiencing mental health issues.
“It sure seemed to me like he (Eliason) was trying to get rid of me,” Frech said. “The way this whole process was handled was brutal.”
Frech provided The Messenger with four notices of a pre-disciplinary conference, signed by Eliason, that allege:
• Insubordination for failing to fill out proper forms for sick leave as required by the commissioners’ personnel policy manual.
• Insubordination for failing to record written documentation of a verbal discussion with an employee that resulted in a reprimand for that employee.
• Threatening, intimidating or coercing of employees or supervisors. It’s alleged that Frech used poor judgment in disciplining supervisors and that employees fear they can’t be truthful for fear of “Jack’s wrath.”
• Making false statements (during a meeting with the county prosecutor) regarding “the board of commissioners operating outside the scope of office of commissioners.”
The first three allegations can result in discipline up to dismissal.
Frech said Eliason conducted a “secret investigation” and would not discuss the allegations against him so that they could work out any issues. Frech said his anxiety grew to the point that he spent a week last month in the behavioral unit at Riverside Methodist Hospital in Columbus.
Eliason said Frech was kept at “arms length” during the investigation so that he could not interfere with it. Eliason called that decision “very appropriate.”
“We had allegations made against him and we investigated those allegations,” Eliason said. He declined to discuss the specifics of the allegations before the conference takes place.
Frech said he falls under his department’s personnel policies and not those of the county commissioners. He said he has never filled out a sick leave form before because it is not required by his department’s policies, which also do not require the written documentation that is the basis for one of the insubordination allegations.
“He works for the commissioners,” Eliason responded. He said the commissioners want consistency among employees and department heads, and that a couple weeks ago department heads were notified that they had to fill out sick leave forms “because we found his discrepancy.”
Frech said the commissioners have approved his department’s personnel policies.
Frech, who has headed the department for nearly 33 years, said he first learned in August an investigation was being conducted after a department supervisor told him that Eliason had contacted her to ask questions about “the shouting incident.”
Frech said there was an incident with an employee, for which he later apologized.
“Basically, I chewed out this employee,” Frech said.
Frech said he does not know what he is supposed to have said during the meeting with the county prosecutor that was allegedly a false statement about the commissioners.
Frech said he met with County Prosecutor Keller Blackburn to show him a letter from a doctor saying he should be off work from Sept. 8-22 for severe situational anxiety. Frech said he did not want the letter circulating around the Courthouse, but asked Blackburn to share the information with the commissioners.
According to Frech, when he returned to work Sept. 22, he found an email from Eliason dated Sept. 8 asking him to complete an absence form. That same day, Sept. 22, Eliason sent the pre-disciplinary conference notices.
Frech said his anxiety over Eliason’s handling of the investigation grew, and he went into the Riverside behavioral unit.
Frech said that it was Eliason’s unwillingness to discuss the allegations that led to the severe anxiety and depression he experienced.
Eliason said he did have discussions with Frech about the allegations. “He knows quite a lot of it, yes,” Eliason said.
Frech provided The Messenger with a copy of a Sept. 23 email he sent to Eliason in which Frech complained that had “never been given the opportunity to hear the charges or present my side” prior to getting notice of the pre-disciplinary conference.
“The charges did not contain any specific names or incidents,” Frech wrote. “Therefore it is difficult for me to respond or carry on the day-to-day supervision of the office while this issue is pending.”
In an emailed response, Eliason described the charges as “very specific,” adding that “the one that is not specific will be outlined during the pre-disciplinary conference.”
Eliason told The Messenger that a purpose of the conference is to go over the allegations.
Frech said that based on how Eliason has acted so far, he has doubts about whether he will be treated fairly during the conference.
“He’s prejudging the process without knowing what the outcome will be, and I think that is a mistake,” Eliason said.
Frech said it is difficult for him to publicly discuss his mental health issues, but that he does not believe there should be a stigma attached to his seeking help.
“I don’t think it is anything to be ashamed of, I think it is directly a result of how I was treated by Lenny Eliason,” Frech said.
Frech provided The Messenger with a letter from an attending physician at Riverside who wrote that “a robust recovery has been observed, and we are not anticipating any long-term impairment of his ability to perform any and all job-related activities.”
Frech has hired an attorney who he said will accompany him to the conference.