Dr. Melinda Rowe, the embattled former Fayette County health commissioner who resigned last week, has requested an extension of her leave of absence from the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department.
Dr. Rice Leach, Rowe's replacement as health commissioner, granted it.
The Board of Health had given Leach, who said he resigned last spring because of conflicts with Rowe, until Monday to determine Rowe's fate with the department.
That deadline appeared to fall apart Monday, as the health department issued a statement saying there had been no final decision regarding Rowe's reassignment. It said Leach "has discussed this situation with every member of the Board of Health."
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Rowe made $178,000 as health commissioner.
After resigning last week, she asked to be considered for the new position of public health physician. What her salary would be in that job is not known.
Leach "may need to take a little more time to make that decision, and we have faith in his judgment," said Beth Mills, the city's commissioner of social services and Mayor Jim Gray's representative on the Board of Health.
It is a curious pause to what has been a hectic month for the health department. In quick succession, it was revealed that an $11.7 million federal grant was in jeopardy, the executive director of the Primary Care Center was suspended and reinstated, two employees were reassigned due to a state investigation into the operation of the pharmacy and, in a series of emergency meetings, staff members complained bitterly about a hostile work environment and mismanagement.
Leach acted as a personal reference for Rowe when she applied for the health commissioner's job in 2003. According to documents received by the Herald-Leader under the Kentucky Open Records Act, Leach sent a message from his Blackberry offering his "strongest recommendation" while noting that Rowe had "minor management problems from time to time."
The health department has 360 employees and a $28 million tax-funded budget. It is under investigation by the Office of the Inspector General, part of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, and the state Board of Pharmacy.
Health officials are also scrambling to find land for a new $11.7 million clinic after a deal announced with much fanfare in October fell through.