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CMH ousts O’Dell

Members of the Community Mental Health and Substance Abuse Board of St. Joseph County terminated the agency’s executive director Tuesday.

The board cited four points that its members said constitute cause for the termination of Liz O’Dell. The 68-year-old O’Dell has been with the agency more than 20 years, the past 10 as its director.

Board member Kathy Pangle made the motion to terminate O’Dell’s employment. She read the four actions that the board determined were cause for dismissal. They were:

*Directing legal counsel to perform legal work, including the drafting of a lawsuit, without the board’s approval or knowledge.

*Holding and participating in meetings (that) violated the Open Meetings Act.

*Directing CMH’s former chief finance officer to ignore the “ability-to-pay” rules under the Mental Health Code.

*Waiving the attorney-client privilege without board authorization by sending draft documents prepared by legal counsel to third parties.

O’Dell, who has been on paid administrative leave since April while a comprehensive audit of the agency was conducted, did not attend the meeting. She sent a letter in advance in response to a letter she received from interim director Kristine Kirsch.

In her letter, she refuted all claims

Contacted by phone after Tuesday’s meeting, the Sturgis resident said she’d prefer questions be directed to her attorney, Ross Chapman of Kalamazoo. Chapman was not available after business hours Tuesday.

O’Dell’s annual salary was $119,000.

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