Supervisors hamstrung over Social Services appointments

The Shenandoah Valley-Herald

WOODSTOCK – The Shenandoah County Social Services Board will drop from four members to three on July 1 after a disagreement among members of the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday over who should be appointed.

Cindy Bailey moved, and Marsha Shruntz seconded, that Jill Sutherly and Frances Bowman be appointed to the board. Bowman is a retired nurse, while Sutherly is the regional community relations director for Greenfield Senior Living, which operates nursing homes in six states.

Bailey, Shruntz and Richard Walker voted for the appointments, while Dick Neese, Steve Baker and Conrad Helsley opposed them.

Bowman would have replaced incumbent Dennis Morris, whose term expires on Friday. Sutherly would have filled a vacant seat previously held by Beverly Fleming, who was appointed in June 2014 and left the advisory panel the following year to become secretary of the county’s Electoral Board.

With Norris’s departure, the panel will be staffed by Helsley, Karen Walton and Brownie Ritenour.

Under state law, a local Social Services Board can have between three and five members.

Neese said that he opposed the appointments because there was no reason for Morris to step down.

“We have never refused to re-appoint someone who was eligible for any board,” he said.

Bailey said the panel is due for new members. On Wednesday, Helsley blamed Bailey and Shruntz’s unwillingness to compromise on the deadlock.

“I mentioned that we can re-appoint [Morris] and also put Mrs. Bowman on,” he said. “That was not acceptable.”

When pressed by Bailey, Baker declined to comment on his reason for opposing Bowman and Sutherly’s appointments.

“I’m not going to get into it,” he said.

Under county law, a Social Services Board member must leave the advisory panel after serving two consecutive four-year terms and must wait two years before submitting his or her name for re-appointment.

Exceptions are made for Board of Supervisors representatives, who can be re-appointed annually for as long as they are supervisors.

According to County Administrator Mary Beth Price, Morris was first appointed to the panel as a Board of Supervisors representative in 2006. He was re-appointed each following year until he was voted out of the District 5 supervisors seat in November 2013.

On Jan. 14, 2014, he was re-appointed to the panel as a citizen representative to replace a departing member. Price did not know which member he replaced.

Morris is running to reclaim the District 5 seat, which Shruntz now holds, on Nov. 7. He is a Republican, while she is an independent.
Calls to Morris’s home were not returned on Wednesday.

Helsley accused Shruntz and Bailey of pushing Bowman and Sutherly’s appointments “because the name on the board is Dennis Morris,” implying that they had a bias against him.

Shruntz, in return, accused Helsley of refusing to consider the appointments because of his relationship with Morris.

“They are best friends,” she said. “One tags along after the other time after time after time.”

Maurertown resident Kevin Rooney repeated Shruntz’s sentiments during the meeting’s public comment period, accusing Neese, Baker and Helsley of cronyism.

“Why would you want someone who is a career politician and a farmer and not someone who’s a nurse on the Social Services Board?” he asked. “Either you’re a buddy of his or a misogynist of some kind.”

Morris operates Moo Manor Farm northwest of Toms Brook. He is also the chairman of the Northern Shenandoah Valley Regional Commission.

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