County fires director of dept. for elderly

Staff reporter

After seven months as director of Marion County Department for Elderly, Jayne Gottschalk was relieved of her duties Feb. 12 by Marion County Commission.

The commission had called a series of executive sessions during the past few weeks, most notably Feb. 11 when much of the commission's agenda was related to the elderly department and its director.

At the Feb. 11 meeting, members of the executive board of Senior Citizens of Marion County, Inc., Estelle McCarty, Wanda West, Irvin Goertzen, Betty Ireland, Marlene Anduss, and Kathryn Heinrichs, met in a 25-minute closed session with the commission. Gottschalk was not present at that session.

Later that same day, the commission had numerous executive sessions with and without Gottschalk to discuss her position and what appeared to be problems within the department.

On Feb. 12, the commission held a special meeting, after press time for this newspaper, in which executive sessions were held, totaling about an hour.

Members of Marion Senior Center was invited by the commission to the meeting. A petition from members of the senior center was accepted by the commission. On the petition there were 36 signatures who supported Lanell Hett, the department secretary, and asked the commission to remove the department for elderly office from the senior center if Gottschalk was to remain as a county employee.

The commission then entered a 15-minute executive session with Mary Hett and Marilyn Geis, president and secretary of Marion Senior Center.

Another session included Marion County Attorney Susan Robson.

At the end of the day, the commission decided to exercise its status as an at-will employer and terminated Gottschalk, effective immediately with commissioner Dan Holub making the motion to dismiss Gottschalk and commissioner Randy Dalke seconding the motion. The motion passed 3-0.

Both Holub and Dallke stated that there were no winners in this action and the decision was a difficult one.

The commission will review the operations of the elderly department and make a decision at a later date regarding Gottschalk's replacement.

The commission approved extending Gottschalk's salary through the pay period that ends March 20 with health insurance coverage until March 31.