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Christoffel to get money from county

July 26, 2006|by ERIN CUNNINGHAM

HAGERSTOWN - Washington County officials decided Tuesday that retiring health officer William Christoffel will receive a portion of the money he receives annually from the county.

The decision was made following Christoffel's announcement Monday that he will retire effective Oct. 1, 2006. He has been on paid administrative leave since June 9 while under investigation for engaging in sexually harassing behavior while working at the Washington County Health Department.

County Administrator Rodney Shoop said Christoffel receives $10,500 annually in county money as a supplement to his state salary. His salary has been reported in The Herald-Mail as $96,355.

Shoop said Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said Tuesday morning that Christoffel should be paid one-quarter of his annual supplement. Shoop said that since Christoffel will be a state and county employee through October, the amount of his supplement will reflect that he worked for July, August and September of this fiscal year.

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A check will be sent to Christoffel within the next two weeks for $2,625, Shoop said. He said there was never any discussion about not paying Christoffel for service through his October retirement.

"Since he's going to be an employee through the first of October, (Snook) thought it was appropriate to pay it," Shoop said.

The county money Christoffel receives as part of his salary is budgeted through the Health Department and appeared in a line item of the fiscal year 2006-07 budget, Shoop said. This has been the case in past years and with past health officers, he said.

"The way that works is that all of the state agencies set the salary, but if a (health officer) comes to the county and (is) asking a higher salary than what the state pays, each county can supplement that," Snook said. "That is what our county has done. That is in addition to his state salary."

Christoffel has been with the Health Department since 2000, according to spokesman Rod MacRae.

A call Tuesday to Christoffel's attorney, Arthur Schneider, seeking comment was not returned.

Commissioner Doris J. Nipps said she believes that paying Christoffel for three months of his county supplement is a good decision.

"I think that's what (Christoffel) is due," she said. "Considering his Oct. 1 retirement ... anyone else who would be retiring would be getting what he was entitled to. It's a retirement. He's not being dismissed."

County Commissioner John C. Munson said he supports the decision to pay Christoffel the portion of his county supplement.

"We owe it to him through the day he leaves," Munson said.

Shoop said the county has no written employment contract with Christoffel and that his pension and health benefits will be decided through the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

Karen Black, spokeswoman for the state department, said the agency does not comment on personnel issues. She would not say whether Christoffel would receive full retirement benefits.

Nipps said the details of Christoffel's retirement were worked out between Christoffel, his attorney and state officials.

"It's an option that was evidently presented to (Christoffel) by the state, and that is the option he chose," she said. "We're just piggybacking on what the state has worked out."

Black would not comment on the hiring process for the county's new health officer.

Two people at the county's health department have been acting health officers since Christoffel's administrative leave began. Earl Stoner is deputy director for administrative functions and Dr. Mark Jameson is deputy director for medical services, MacRae said. He also said a state official is assisting the department.

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