Six more state Health Department employees fired

Thursday, September 7th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- Six more state Health Department employees -- including two relatives of a former deputy commissioner in the department -- have been fired as the agency reorganizes in the wake of a widespread scandal.

The six fired Friday were Kathy Chappell, Kara Hudson, Richard Mullins, Janet Wiles, Jamie Pirrong and Carla Pirrong.

Jamie Pirrong is the daughter-in-law of former deputy commissioner Roger Pirrong, while Carla is his daughter.

Roger Pirrong was labeled by acting Health Department Director Jerry Regier as one of dozens of "ghost employees" at the agency who were paid but allegedly did little or no work.

In a June letter to Oklahoma County District Attorney Bob Macy, Regier wrote that Jamie Pirrong filled out timecards for her father from September 1998 through April of 2000 while he spent little or no time at the department.

Roger Pirrong made $87,936 a year but was ill and rarely showed up for work during the two or three years before he retired in April, Regier said.

Jamie Pirrong made $30,432 a year as a health facilities consultant, according to payroll data from the Office of Personnel Management.

Carla Pirrong made $50,063 working in local health services in Oklahoma City.

Jamie Pirrong said Wednesday she was given no reason for her firing and that she didn't know if her relationship with her father-in-law was a factor.

"If it is, there are no grounds for it," she said. "I worked there before I met his son."

Jamie Pirrong said she worked as a secretary at the department and never received a bad performance rating.

"I am trying to get over being upset," Jamie Pirrong said.

"It is kind of a shock."

Barbara Pirrong, Roger's wife, said her daughter and daughter-in-law were informed of the disciplinary actions in letters sent to their homes.

The fired employees are the latest casualties of an agency-wide shake-up following the May 2 arrest of acting commissioner Brent VanMeter for allegedly taking a bribe from nursing home operator James Smart.

A total of 31 people have left the department since VanMeter's arrest, either because they were fired or resigned.

Regier cited "management reasons" for the firing of the six employees.

At least five of the employees fired Friday were unclassified employees, meaning their hiring process is not subject to the same oversight as that of classified employees. About one in four department employees is unclassified.

Regier is still considering phasing out some unclassified positions or making some of them classified, meaning current employees may have to reapply for their jobs, said Peggy Wiebener, acting deputy commissioner of special health services.