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Menahga citizens come out to defend nursing home administrator

When Greenwood Connections staff member Laura Ahlf spoke to the Menahga City Council Monday, a room full of Clair Erickson supporters couldn't agree more.

Ahlf and other audience members disagreed with the council's decision allowing Greenwood Connections director of nursing Cheryl Lapitz to return to her job.

After giving a summary of what an administrator's job entails, Ahlf went on to say that Erickson has done nothing but fulfill his duties as administrator of Greenwood Connections.

"If the city of Menahga was to take a vote, would they vote you in that position? Would you be qualified for the job?" Ahlf rhetorically asked the council. "Yet Clair must answer to you before making any decision. You have now taken away Clair's right to terminate an employee without a fight. You have taken away control of his business. I know this is a business of the city also but a business that he manages."

Another concerned employee of Greenwood Connections also wondered about the consequences of bringing Lapitz back on the job.

"How does this all affect the residents and the families now?" asked Yvonne Stewart. "She (Lapitz) has been found guilty and now she's back in our nursing home."

During a public hearing held earlier this month, city attorney Jeff Pederson concluded that because of lack of documentation and lack of prior disciplinary hearing combined with the nature of allegations, termination of Lapitz was not supportable by the council.

The allegations involved Lapitz using inappropriate, demeaning and intimidating language with staff and a nursing home resident, according to Pederson's findings.

"Erickson was hired to hire people and to fire them. I just feel that you all should think about this," Stewart said.

At least four other audience members who signed up to speak during the public hearing portion of the meeting decided not to after hearing Stewart and Ahlf's statements and said, "It's all been said."

"Where and when is this going to end? When are you going to stop looking at Clair and his position at Greenwood Connections as an enemy? ... Clair has been a vital part of the success of Greenwood Connections. Without any power on his part, how could there be continued prosper?" Ahlf stated.

Following those statements, the audience asked if the council had a response and they didn't.

In other business:

A closed meeting to evaluate Erickson's job performance was scheduled to take place at the end of the council's open meeting.

Evaluating a city employee is a procedure that's often conducted and doesn't mean disciplinary action has been taken or will be taken, city administrator Teri Osterman said.

Councilwoman Maxine Norman said she'd like to wait and conduct the evaluation with the city's attorney present.

Osterman asked if an attorney will then be present at all other city employees' evaluations and Norman answered yes.

The council then carried a motion to conduct the evaluation at a later date in the presence of Pederson.