New health director needs financial, people skills

By Mike Heine/The Week

(Published August 22, 2006, 11:58 a.m.)

The new Walworth County Health and Human Services Department director, whoever it may be, needs a combination of people skills and fiscal responsibility, County Administrator David Bretl said.

"Both dimensions are extremely important," Bretl said.

Diane 'Dani' Maculan, who resigned from the post Aug. 14, had the numbers game down pat. After her massive restructuring, the department runs more efficiently and has greater access to Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement funds, administrative assistant Becky Gove said.

Maculan ended up with a $1.8 million budget surplus in 2005 and hedged a projected $2.3 million shortfall that year, according to county figures.

"This 'savings' in excess of $4 million is remarkable," according to an independent fact-finder's report.

But that same report came about because of numerous complaints about Maculan's leadership style.

County supervisors authorized the investigation following a January board meeting where Maculan was extensively criticized by the public, department clients, a department employee union representative and others.

"The fact finder received numerous reports of Ms. Maculan demonstrating anger, intimidation, vengeance and petty tyranny toward staff," the report by labor attorney Alan Levy said.

Maculan, who defended her decisions and actions in a rebuttal to the fact finder's report, gave no reason for leaving in her resignation letter. Attempts to reach her were unsuccessful.

She intended to serve until Dec. 31, but Bretl chose to effect the resignation immediately.

It is difficult for any manager to lead in a lame-duck situation, Bretl said.

"We've got a lot at stake and keeping a good, quality program over there," he said. "We need to look to the future."

The department structure Maculan implemented will remain largely in place.

"My intention is to stay the course with respect to the programs and the organization that has been laid out," said Bretl, who in the interim will oversee the department.

Liz Aldred, manager of the mental health and alcohol and other drug abuse services, said the plan is reputable and solid.

"I think it is a very good plan with a good direction," said Aldred, who was hired by Maculan and started in June. "I think we will intend to continue down this path to implement a comprehensive service plan for the residents of Walworth County. I know we are going to be continuing to look at what is the best fit for our community."

Aldred said the new administrator should come in and look to build upon the structure of the organization. To do so, they will need to create a positive environment for employees while recognizing the need for financial accountability, she added.

"Leadership is going to be a very important function of this position," said Suzi Hagstrom, county human resources manager. The county started its search for a replacement with job postings in area newspapers and on several career Web sites. A recruiter was also hired, Hagstrom said.

The application process could take several months.

When Maculan's predecessor, Mike Kohl, retired in September 2004, the position was posted for just more than a month. There were 34 applicants, eight of whom were interviewed. Maculan started in early March 2005.

Bretl said this job search could be somewhat precarious because of the publicity the department restructuring generated.

"I'm always worried about finding qualified applicants for any job," Bretl said. But, "Walworth County is a good place to work, and the department can and will move forward in a positive direction. We are going to be very aggressive in terms of our search and optimistic in getting a quality director."

 

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