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.
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 He said the city maintains a good relationship with United Way, despite the withdrawn grant.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.