The Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services suddenly is vacant in the top ranks of its Office of the Ombudsman, which represents citizens by investigating complaints about the cabinet's programs and employees.
Last week saw the firings of Sandra Brock, executive director, who made $102,775 a year; Jackie Strader, deputy executive director, who made $82,719; and Angeleta Hendrickson, director of the division of performance enhancement, who made $76,410.
Cabinet spokeswoman Gwenda Bond said the agency had no comment, other than to note that the women were non-merit employees, appointed by previous Gov. Ernie Fletcher, and therefore they served at the pleasure of Gov. Steve Beshear.
"We plan to fill the executive director position and will possibly fill the other two positions," Bond said. "If we determine we need to fill all three positions, collectively the three salaries would be lower than previously."
Contacted at home Wednesday, Brock said the cabinet simply told the women that Dec. 2 would be their final day. She said she was unaware of any problems or scandals that would have prompted the firings.
"They didn't say why," said Brock, who added that she's grateful to have remained at the cabinet for Beshear's first year. "I enjoyed the position and would have liked to remain there. But if you're non-merit, that's the nature of the beast."
The cabinet last month named a new long-term care ombudsman, Kimberly Baker, who oversees the statewide system that monitors the quality of care at long-term health institutions, including nursing homes.
Beshear changed that particular position from a non-merit to a merit job, so its occupants no longer can be fired without cause by new governors.