The St. Louis Health Department could soon be looking for someone to replace director Melba Moore, who has led the department since 2015.
A Cincinnati board city board voted unanimously Tuesday to hire Moore as that city's next health department commissioner. According to the board’s chairman, the hire could be done as soon as the end of the week.
"She’s made it clear she wants to accept the offer,” Cincinnati Health Board Chair Phil Lichtenstein said Tuesday.
The St. Louis Health Department is responsible for preventing disease and poisoning, applying for and distributing health-related grants, preventing smoking and drug use and enforcing animal-related ordinances, among other tasks.
The department would not confirm whether Moore was leaving, only that she was in contract negotiations with the Ohio city.
If she takes the job, Moore would lead a department roughly three times the size of the one in St. Louis, with 478 full-time employees, according to budget documents.
Moore was the only remaining candidate for the Cincinnati position after another contender dropped out.
She became the St. Louis public health director in 2015 after serving for more than a decade as the city’s health commissioner. She currently holds both positions. During her tenure, the office received national accreditation. But it’s also been hampered by high staff turnover.
Moore spoke to the workforce issues in February, when she told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that nearly 15 percent of the department's 114 positions were vacant.
Lichtenstein, the Cincinnati Health Board’s chairman, said its members expressed worry about the St. Louis Health Department’s personnel issues when weighing the decision to hire Moore.
“We were concerned about that,” Lichtenstein said Tuesday. “Was it happening as a result of a biased, off-putting interaction style, or was she making tough decisions?”
But he said a City of St. Louis human resources professional told the board that Moore’s department had been plagued by cuts in funding, layoffs and “lackadaisical, underperforming” employees.
“She became a lightning rod for criticism,” Lichtenstein said. He praised Moore’s “principled, forthright” personality.
St. Louis Personnel Department Director Richard Frank declined to comment on the office’s workforce, saying it doesn’t discuss “personally identifiable issues.”
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