By DANIELLE RUSH

Tribune staff writer

PERU — Tudie Bessignano was back on the job this morning as Miami County health nurse.

The health board determined in an executive session Wednesday that county commissioners did not have the right to fire Bessignano.

Health officer Dr. Neil Stalker told her to report back to work, according to the board’s attorney, Don Fern.

“I advised them we do not believe the commissioners have the authority to terminate her in the first place,” Fern said this morning. “Basically, our position is she’s never been terminated because they didn’t have the authority in the first place to terminate her.”

Commissioner Greg Deeds said Wednesday the county’s attorney, David Grund, advised the board commissioners had the jurisdiction to fire Bessignano.

Fern said he notified commissioners, who voted Oct. 24 to fire her.

The attorney said there has been no decision regarding getting Bessignano a county paycheck for the time she was not working.

He added that board members will listen to the commissioners’ grounds for terminating Bessignano.

“We’ll make a determination if she should be suspended, terminated or disciplined,” he said.

Commissioner Craig Boyer said at Monday’s commissioners meeting that he’d had complaints about Bessignano for two years and complaints made in an Oct. 24 executive session were “more severe than I ever dreamed of.”

Commissioner Gary Hawley said Thursday commissioners are “consulting with our attorney to see what our next step, if there is one, is.”

Hawley said there’s no agreement between commissioners and the health board about which board has the right to hire and fire health department employees, and this is not the only issue brought up by the current situation.

“The issue is not necessarily the hiring and firing, it’s the employee issues themselves that develop in the county and how those are handled,” Hawley said.

Bessignano contends she was fired because she refused to give Hawley’s wife a flu shot with county employees. Commissioners deny that allegation.

Danielle Rush may be reached at (765) 454-8585 or via e-mail at danielle.rush@kokomotribune.com

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