News Democrat

Vets services probe continues

By Wayne Gates

More public input on the performance of Brown County Veterans Service Commission Director Ralph Fox was presented to the Brown County Veterans Service Commission during its regular meeting on August 28.

Fox remains on paid administrative leave which began July 2 after the commission was notified by Common Pleas Judge Scott Gusweiler that he had received a complaint by Veterans Services Officer Cheryl Childers that Fox had created a hostile work environment.

The BCVS commission met in executive session with Fox and his attorney on July 23 to hear his side of the story. Following the meeting, the board decided to seek public comment and held an emergency meeting on July 31 to hear from veterans and other members of the public on how they felt they had been treated by Fox and the office in general. About 20 people spoke at the meeting, both for and against Fox at the July 31 meeting.

At the August 28 meeting, Jess Millikan of veterans support group Open Arms Always began the public comment portion of the meeting with a prepared statement.

Millikan referenced the July 31 meeting where BCVS commissioners said that they could not address problems in the office unless they were aware of them, and that veterans who were turned away or had other concerns with their treatment were welcome to bring their compliants to the board.

“How are veterans seeking an appeal able to contact the commissioners as there is nothing posted on the website or at the service center how to contact them?”, Millikan’s statement asked.

Millikan suggested that information for veterans who are seeking assistance should be more readily available in the waiting area of the BCVS office.

“Veterans should have an expectation of the best service provided in an atmosphere of caring, trust and mutual respect,” Millikan said in closing.

Millikan also presented a copy of a handwritten letter from Diane Peck of Blanchester that complained about the treatment she received from Fox at an undated time.

The letter read in part, “On a couple of occasions, I had to see Ralph Fox. Each time I had to talk to Mr, Fox, he was very rude and disrespectful. In one meeting, he called me stupid and asked if I could read because I didn’t bring an electric disconnect notice…I know of others he has treated badly. This man has no business dealing with the public.”

John Woliver, Fox’s attorney, said his client was ready to move forward.

“Ralph would like to get this matter resolved and he wants to get back to work. The job that is done here is too important to go on with a half-staffed office. He stands ready to return to work and to carry out your policies,” Woliver said.

BCVS Commissioner ralph Quallen said that he understood that Fox was ready to return, but that there was still a problem.

“That has to do with what (veterans) run into when they come to that window out there (in the lobby). Unless that perception is going to change, and unless people change their ways about addressing veterans, it’s not going to change.”

The next regular meeting of the BCVS commission is Sept. 25 at 9 a.m. at the office at 474 Home Street in Georgetown. The public is invited to attend.