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Christoffel to retire

July 25, 2006|by ERIN CUNNINGHAM

HAGERSTOWN

William Christoffel announced Monday in a four-line letter that he will be retiring as Health Officer of the Washington County Health Department effective Oct. 1, 2006.

Christoffel has been on administrative leave since June 9, after allegations that he engaged in sexually harassing behavior while on the job. A state investigation report released last month cited claims from at least 13 witnesses.

The County Commissioners were scheduled to meet in a closed session today to discuss Christoffel's employment. That meeting has been canceled, Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said.

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"The sole reason for the meeting was (Christoffel)," he said. "Since he is retiring, there is no reason (to have it)."

County Administrator Rodney Shoop said the letter from Christoffel was hand-delivered Monday morning to the County Administration Building by Christoffel's attorney, Arthur Schneider.

Shoop said the letter gave no reason for Christoffel's retirement.

The letter was addressed to County Commissioners and S. Anthony McCann, secretary of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Shoop said.

Christoffel and Schneider declined to comment about the announcement Monday.

Shoop said it will be up to state officials whether Christoffel remains on administrative leave until October. The County Commissioners will not be required to take any action to approve Christoffel's decision to retire, Shoop said.

"The state handles that," he said.

Commissioner Doris J. Nipps said she had not seen the letter, but she had heard from Snook about Christoffel's retirement.

Nipps said that after the commissioners met with Christoffel and his attorney earlier this month state officials spoke with Christoffel.

"I believe there was an agreement between (Christoffel) and the state," she said. "I think all of that had been worked out between (Christoffel) and his attorney and the state."

Nipps said that because he is a state employee Christoffel's retirement benefits will be determined through the state.

"We weren't part of those negotiations," Nipps said.

John Hammond, a spokesman with the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, said Monday that the department does not comment on personnel matters.

Nipps said she believed Christoffel had been receiving his salary through the state during his administrative leave.

"It's a very sad situation," Nipps said. "We'll get through this and pick another (health) officer and go from there. The Health Department is operating and doing their usual stuff."

Commissioner John C. Munson said he was surprised by Christoffel's announcement.

"I'm sorry to see him go," he said. "He's been good for the county."

Allegations in an investigation report released by the state allege that Christoffel used condoms as a joke and made sexually explicit comments.

A statement released last month by Christoffel and Schneider said Christoffel has never "purposely or knowingly" discriminated against anyone at the Health Department or in public."

"He has dedicated himself to educating the public by using techniques which include humor and banter," according to the statement. "He has never nor would he consider making any derogatory or offensive comments to any of his staff or the public at large."

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