December 16, 2008

City laying off health department employee after losing United Way grant

City Hall is laying off a health department employee at the end of the month after the department had repeated problems running a United Way program, according to an email sent out Tuesday by City Administrator Ben Hughes.

A tipster inside of City Hall forwarded us this email from Hughes to the Racine Board of Health laying out the situation. Here's the letter sent out this morning:

Dear Racine Board of Health Members,

As you are aware, Health Director Janelle Grammer has been out of the office on medical leave and she has informed us that she is due to return to work on Monday, December 22. I have been working closely with Marcia Fernholz and Teri Hicks and I am confident that the daily operations and duties of the Health Department are being delivered and that the staff has been doing a very good job. I do, however, want to keep you informed on an issue with the Home Visitor Grant program.

Many of you will recall that the United Way of Racine County has annually awarded us just over $60,000 to staff and manage the Home Visitor Program. This program is intended to provide additional social and health support for at risk families with children under the age of 5 by providing a public health nurse to visit homes. Nearly 3 months ago, we were made aware of significant concerns with the Health Department employee who was hired to provide these services. A discipline action occurred and we asked the United Way for a "second chance" to improve our delivery of these services and to meet the expectations of the grant. The United Way granted our request.

On December 2, 2008, the United Way informed us that due to "continuing and significant problems in delivering the agreed upon outcomes for the program, it is necessary to end the contract with the City of Racine on December 31, 2008." This contract was normally scheduled to end on June 30, 2009, with a standard renewal option at the end of the term. It is my understanding that the United Way will be contracting with a nonprofit organization to fulfill the remaining 6 – 7 months of our contract.

Due to the unanticipated loss of grant income, it will be necessary for us to eliminate a position within the Health Department and the employee who was funded by the grant has been notified of these events. We apologize for this occurrence. We will keep you informed.

Ben Hughes

Update: Hughes said in an interview Tuesday the Health Department employee simply wasn't visiting enough homes to make the United Way happy. He said the city maintains a good relationship with United Way, despite the withdrawn grant.

The program in question has a public health nurse visit the homes of at-risk families with young children. The belief is many families are unable, or unwilling, to visit City Hall, so the nurse will go out to meet them.

The program will continue, but it will be run by a nonprofit organization.

Specifically on why Hughes wrote the letter, Hughes said Public Health Officer Janelle Grammer has been out sick and is expected back Dec. 22. He wanted to notify the Public Health Board of the United Way's decision as soon as possible.

Hughes added it was the first time he's ever written to the health board; normally, Grammer would handle such correspondance.


  1. I think Mr. Hughes must have been bullied and picked on back in High School. I can also imagine he was running to his teachers and tattling on all his fellow students.

  2. Yeah, heaven forbid he keep the Board of Health and the City Council up to date on things like this. He really is a weasel.

  3. I don't see anything mentioned here about the city council. So I presume the second anonymous comment was made by an alderman. Awwww.... that makes me feel so warm and fuzzy inside.

  4. Why do I think that Racine could have found the money to keep this good program going?
    Will we know the real story anytime soon?

  5. Could Hughes please use spell check and fix one of the "UNITED" as it is wrong in the text.

  6. A discipline action occurred and we asked the Untied Way for a "second chance" to improve our delivery of these services and to meet the expectations of the grant. The United Way granted our request.


  7. Okay, the program will continue but will NOT be administered through the City of Racine.

  8. Unwilling or unable to go to city hall for FREE healthcare???? Now that's F'N lazy. Too bad so sad, don't let the door hit ya where the good lord split ya'

  9. Maybe Hughes can go door to door?? Oh, wait, he's too busy riding around town with hiz honor.

  10. I are collage edumacated, I cant spel United.....but enjoy the heck out of that 100+ K a year....pathetic.

  11. Ahh yeah, I bet Hughes was beat up on the playground everyday.

  12. OK, Anons 4:23, 4:24 and 5:27: I corrected the misspelling. Unless you've never made a typo, get a life, folks; focus on what's important.

    And Anon 5:23: Let's drop the profanity. If the JT can impose standards of conduct, so can we. (And even if the JT can't...)

  13. Pete I'm not one of the anonymouses (is that a word?) that complained about the typo, but what I think they are irritated about is someone making the amount of money that Hughes is, in an email of this serious nature, should have probably proofread it before sending it out to mulitiple people.

    Hughes doesn't sound like he allows for errors from city employees without them suffering severe discipline, perhaps he should consider the fact everyone makes mistakes, even him.

    I also don't feel it was necessary for him to point out the "discipline" an employee of the Health department received. That was nobody's business but that employee's and the Human Resource department.

  14. Anon 7:04,

    I think it's "anonymice." If not, then it should be. :-)

    As for typos: We all make 'em, and spellcheck doesn't help when the misspelling is also a word. I'm just asking for tolerance, and civility.

    Your second point is well-taken -- although no names were mentioned and some performance failure is obvious from United Way's action.

  15. Anon 5:23 - If the parent(s) are "unwilling" to go to City Hall for free healthcare, their children should still be able to receive care. This program is for families with children under 5-the babies aren't going to take themselves to get immunized and yes, shame on the parent(s) who don't make the effort, but don't punish the kids.

  16. Anonymice, hahaha....! Perhaps you are correct!

    Yes Pete the name was left out, but everyone at city hall will know who the employee is, name or not.

    And, everyone knows not to depend on spellcheck for obvious reasons like this one.

    I agree everyone should learn to be more tolerant, and Mr. Hughes is no exception.

  17. A "tipster" huh? I wonder if it's the same tipster who visits the bars regularly??????

  18. The same tipster who visits the bars regularly? Who might that be?? The only person in city hall I know that visits the bars regularly is the mayor himself, but somehow I doubt very much that he is the tipster. How about a couple more clues?