“W.H.I.S.P.E.R.” Program in Willoughby Hills…just the facts

LFC received requests to research some financial decisions made by the Willoughby Hills officials.  We never just publish any allegations that are made, but we will use the Ohio Sunshine Laws to obtain public records that will help us confirm or refute the allegations.   We will then publish our findings with the documentation supporting our conclusions.  We let facts guide us, and will not be biased based on a political agenda.

We have submitted a public records request to the City for some information, but have yet to receive a reply even acknowledging receipt of the request.  We know that the City did receive it because of the Facebook post made by the Administrative Assistant.

Here is our initial records request:  https://lobbyistsforcitizens.com/2020/05/28/records-request-for-willoughby-hills/

Here is our article about the Administrative Assistant’s response:
https://lobbyistsforcitizens.com/2020/05/30/holmes-and-watson-take-on-willoughby-hills/

The Facebook post piqued  our interest on other matters going on in Willoughby Hills.  So to try and satisfy our insatiable curiosity, we did some basic internet searches and found a treasure trove of News-Herald articles that started us down another rabbit hole.

Here is the News-Herald article that discusses the Whisper program:

https://www.news-herald.com/news/lake-county/willoughby-hills-whisper-program-to-be-referred-to-state-for/article_5bc3e530-d6e6-11e8-b9dd-bffc90ec5eeb.html

The Willoughby Hills News and Views website provides the entire Whisper report with exhibits providing the details mentioned in the report:

https://willoughbyhills.news/2018/10/26/whisper-report-with-exhibits/

Excerpts from the News-Herald article:
“Willoughby Hills City Council announced in an Oct. 23 news release that the administration of the Willoughby Hills Isolated Senior Program for Everyday Relief has been referred for a criminal investigation.

Based on the recommendation of Lake County Prosecutor Charles E. Coulson, the results of the City Council investigation will be referred to the Ohio Attorney General’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation, the Ohio State Auditor’s Office, and Lake County Job and Family Services, the release stated.”

*****

Since we could not find a follow-up article on what happened with the investigation,  we decided to contact Mr. Charles Coulson, the Lake County Prosecutor, and ask if he can share any information with us.  Mr. Coulson was very timely and helpful with the following information from their files.

Here is Mr. Coulson’s email to us with his attachments:
“This is all I have concerning your inquiry about the Willoughby Hills W.H.I.S.P.E.R. program. There is no reason to suspect any wrongdoing.”  (Emphasis added by LFC)

Charles Coulson
Lake County Prosecuting Attorney

*****

Here is Mr. Coulson’s letter dated October 12, 2018 to Councilwoman Pizmoht, Chief Collins, and Dale Fellows.    Coulson 10-12-18

Excerpt from the letter:
“Much of the information provided is in the form of unsubstantiated allegations with little or no specific facts.  Therefore, the information provided is insufficient for a determination as to whether or not criminal or unethical activity occurred.  However, enough suspicion is raised that further investigation should be undertaken by professional investigators.”

*****
Here is Mr. Coulson’s letter dated October 26, 2018 to the same three individuals:
Coulson 10-26-18

Excerpt from the letter:
“I was surprised and disheartened that my October 12, 2018, letter to you was used for a press release. Suspicions should never be made public.  Suspicions should be quietly investigated to determine the truth of the matter.  If the suspicions are unfounded, as these investigations have thus far concluded, then reputations will not be harmed.”

“It would be neither right nor proper to continue to use the State Auditor’s investigations for political reasons until the truth of the matter is determined”.

“As you made the last letter public, I am now obligated to make this letter public.”

*****

Here is the letter dated October 19, 20118 from Mr. Mark Kollar, Special Investigator with the State of Ohio Attorney General’s office:  Attorney General 10-19-18

Excerpt from the letter:
“In reviewing these allegations, it should be noted that to my knowledge, there has never been a report or complaint by a “victim” or family member/advocate on behalf of a ‘victim”…”

*****

Here is the letter from Adult Protective Services dated October 25, 2018: APS 10-25-18

Excerpt from the letter:
“…[APS] was not able to find evidence that [name redacted] is currently being exploited.  If money was taken from [name redacted] previously, there is no evidence of that fact that was obtainable by JFS.  JFS (Job and Family Services) will be closing the case.”

*****

LFC Comments:  We have been unable to determine who released Mr. Coulson’s letter dated October 12, 2018 to the press.  We agree with Mr. Coulson’s statement that suspicions or allegations should not be made public without responsible research.

There may be other political sidebars on the Whisper program, but we need documentation providing proof before we move forward with this issue.

*****

However, we did find another News-Herald article dated May 14, 2020.

https://www.news-herald.com/news/lake-county/willoughby-hills-still-considering-reestablishing-whisper-program/article_9ac61f0e-9540-11ea-8e60-7be803ef780d.html

Excerpt from the article:
“W.H.I.S.P.E.R. began in the city in 2009 to offer temporary or permanent assistance to senior residents with services such as lawn care, house cleaning, general maintenance, meals or companionship, through the work of volunteers.”

*****

LFC Opinion:  We wonder if this is a role for the local government? There are already non-profit groups established in Lake County, such as, the Council on Aging and RSVP, that help seniors.  Much of their funding is received from the Lake County Senior levy.  Seems like “sub-contracting” this work to the non-profits is a great idea, and removes any potential accusations of the City officials’ motives.   In some cases, perception becomes reality in the minds of some citizens.

 

 



Categories: Lake County Cities & Townships, Uncategorized, Willoughby Hills

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