CEO of mental health agency is married to former CEO, who remains on the payroll

jcheves@herald-leader.comJune 3, 2012 

  • What is the Bluegrass Regional Mental Health-Mental Retardation Board?

    Bluegrass is a state-backed non-profit that provides psychiatric care, addiction treatment and counseling for people regardless of their ability to pay. It also manages two of Kentucky's largest mental health centers — Eastern State Hospital in Lexington and Bluegrass Oakwood in Somerset — and private community homes for the mentally disabled. There are 14 regional mental health boards around Kentucky, under the aegis of the state Health and Family Services Cabinet. Bluegrass — by far the largest — is the board serving Central Kentucky.

  • Bluegrass executive compensation in 2010

    Shannon Ware, chief executive officer: $250,016 base pay, $25,002 bonus pay

    Joseph Toy, retired CEO/consultant/CEO of Bluegrass New Directions: $127,621 base pay, $665,339 from deferred compensation plan

    Tambara Nalle, chief financial officer: $154,066 base pay, $5,392 bonus pay, $255,666 from deferred compensation plan

    Tricia Salyer, chief administrative officer: $154,066 base pay, $5,392 bonus pay, $264,878 from deferred compensation plan

Shannon Ware was one of three vice presidents at Bluegrass Regional Mental Health-Mental Retardation Board in 2008 when she replaced her retiring boss, chief executive officer Joseph Toy.

The year before, Toy divorced his first wife. The year after, he married Ware.

Nepotism did not play a role in Ware's promotion, said Scott Gould, chairman of the Bluegrass board of directors.

Gould said it's inappropriate to discuss the personal relationship between Ware and Toy, who was CEO for 18 years and remains as a paid consultant. Ware was chosen based on her qualifications after a nationwide search, with no input from Toy, Gould said. Ware holds a master's degree in public administration and started at Bluegrass in 1989, he said.

"It would be a shame and definitely not fair and comprehensive for a newspaper that has often fought for women to gain a greater role in the business world to in any form or fashion infer that Shannon Ware is not qualified to be president/CEO and/or was hired as president/CEO due to any relationship with Joe Toy," Gould wrote in an email.

Ware and Toy declined to comment.

Bluegrass pays Eric Crabtree, who is Toy and Ware's son-in-law, a base annual salary of $68,016 as director of information technology. Although Bluegrass personnel rules prohibit close relatives from supervising each other, Crabtree reports to Ware.

Gould said Bluegrass hired Crabtree in 2006, and Crabtree did not marry Toy's daughter until 2009. Gould said he did not know if Crabtree had a personal relationship with Toy's daughter when he was hired. Crabtree did not respond to requests for comment.

"Every situation is considered carefully when nepotism occurs, and at Bluegrass this can happen only as a result of a relationship that has materialized after professional relationships are established," Gould wrote.

Other families work together at Bluegrass. Among them is David Phelps, facility director at Bluegrass Oakwood in Somerset, and Michele Phelps, his wife, who is the director of compliance.

In 2010, a former Bluegrass Oakwood clinical specialist sued the facility, alleging she lost her job to management retaliation after she reported Michele Phelps for risking a patient's safety. She cited the Phelpses' marriage. A judge dismissed the suit, ruling that the clinical specialist did not properly report her safety concern up the chain of command.

The Phelpses declined to comment.

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