By Amantha Garpiel
SIDNEY — Representatives from each of the nine counties in Ohio within Region 15 attended the OneOhio Recovery Region 15 Board meeting either in-person or virtually to discuss the Conflict of Interest Policy and the application process for funding. OneOhio Recovery Foundation is a nonprofit organization established to distribute 55% of the funds the state of Ohio will receive from the pharmaceutical industry as a result of its role in the national opioid epidemic.
The board meeting was held in the Shelby County Agriculture Center, 810 Fair Road, Sidney, on Monday, May 1. The meeting started with the selection of the region’s representative for the Foundation Board. Shelby County Commissioner Julie Ehemann was selected for an initial one year term, which is ending in June. Ed Pierce, of Auglaize County, moved to nominate Ehemann. Pierce’s motion was seconded by Board Secretary Beth Seibert, of Allen County. The motion passed and Ehemann will serve a three-year term as the region’s Foundation Board representative beginning in July 2023.
“I will go ahead and say that she represents us in a very positive way,” said Board President Joe Antram, Logan County. “Her background in pharmaceuticals and all makes her invaluable to that Foundation Board and because of her great responsibility that she shows, I think that she’s a great representative of our region.”
In regards to the Foundation Board’s Conflict of Interest Policy, which the region is planning to use as a template, Pierce raised concerns regarding specific language in the policy that could create future problems for the county representatives when voting on issues during meetings.
Article 2, Paragraph 2, Section D, to Pierce, could be read literally which would prohibit any of the OneOhio board members who are elected officials in their respective counties from voting on issues that could potentially benefit their county.
“If in fact that’s the case, I’m wondering if my being an elected official in a particular county, or I guess, city, or village, or township, any elected official, that you may be doing a disservice to your county by participating in this board,” said Pierce. “The literal reading of it seems to be potentially exclusionary.”
Pierce provided his own county’s representatives, Auglaize County, as an example. Two of the three representatives from Auglaize County are elected officials, himself and Michael Vorhees, and the third, Pam Schwartz, works for Child Services. Pierce noted that should a proposal come before this board that benefits Children Services in Auglaize County, all three representatives would be ineligible to participate in the vote.
The board chose to table this particular discussion until the next meeting and will bring the policy’s language to the board’s legal counsel for suggestions on how to better clarify the language used.
Next, the OneOhio Recovery Region 15 Board made the decision to continue moving forward with creating a local online portal to receive applications for grant funding for projects. Creating a regional process for applications came to a halt at the end of March 2023, according to Seibert, because the board members were under the assumption that the State Foundation Board is creating the process and rather than using the time of board member Marcus Ballinger, Logan County, they would utilize the state’s process.
According to Antram, there has been discussion of funding becoming available this summer and he believes that, as a region, the board should be prepared for that and be ready to start accepting applications and dedicating funds.
“What I think we should do is continue down our path and get an application. I don’t see the information that we’re gleaming from that application being far different from what the state is going to ask,” said Matt Aultman, Darke County. “At least we, as a district, can get some applications in and start vetting candidates that we want to move forward down this path.”
Creating a regional application process could create an extra step in the process if the State Foundation Board also creates a process, the OneOhio Recovery Region 15 Board will screen regional applicants and determine which to move forward for consideration by the State Foundation Board.
The board voted unanimously to move forward with creating a regional application process with Ballinger heading the project. Ballinger plans to share the completed application and application portal with his fellow board members by May 3o to be discussed at the next meeting on June 5 at 10 a.m.
Region 15 includes Allen, Auglaize, Mercer, Darke, Shelby, Logan, Champaign, Miami and Preble counties.