Franklin Co. EMHS Director resigns after allegations of bullying staff, being drunk on the job

Michael Pannell

COLUMBUS  (WCMH) — The Director of Franklin County Emergency Management and Homeland Security Executive Board has resigned.

Director Michael Pannell turned in his resignation this morning, which was accepted by the board. Two weeks ago, Pannell was put on paid administrative leave on allegations of misconduct.

Jeff Young, chairman of the executive board at the agency says the resignation reflects a mutual understanding that it’s the best way for everyone to move forward.

“This has been a distraction and now we’re able to actually focus on that vital work of emergency management,” Young said.

Agency records show that Pannell was first suspended in 2014 after which the agency hired consultants to try to improve the work environment. But complaints about Pannell continued.

Employees said Pannell “bullies and intimidates staff.”  There was also an incident earlier this year when a visiting public health official said Pannell “reeked of alcohol” and “appeared to be wasted.”

Jeff Young says Pannell’s departure is not a reflection of the agency as a whole or the quality of its employees.

“I have no doubt it’s a great working environment when it comes to the technical side of things. It is more about leadership and what vision you have and how you go about that,” Young said. “There will be some doubts as we work through the process for a permanent director but you know it’s a slightly different climate with a slightly different mindset.”

Pannell was appointed director of the agency in July 2008. The board released the following statement:

“We remain focused on our most important mission: helping to keep Franklin County residents safe.  With that in mind, our executive board today accepted the resignation of Director Michael Pannell.  We believe that this is the best path forward and we look forward to putting this matter behind us so that we can continue to focus on the work of emergency management.

The board also named Darrel Koerber interim director. He has been serving in this role for some time and will continue to ably lead the organization while we search for a new director.”

Pannell released his own statement:

I will not be doing any interviews about my resignation but I can offer you the following statement.

After long and thoughtful consideration with my family, and due to a number of health issues including recurring problems with a difficult-to-heal broken foot, I have made the decision to retire from the agency.

After serving 30 years in the U.S. Marine Corps including several combat commands in the Horn of Africa and Iraq, coupled with maintaining a successful career in the private and public sectors, I feel it is time to step back, focus on my health and spend more time with my devoted family.

I can say unequivocally that I am proud of the extraordinary work that my team and I have been able to accomplish to modernize the agency since I took over in 2008. Our achievements included fixing a chronically malfunctioning outdoor warning siren system, helping establish a 21st century countywide emergency mass notification system, and leading the effort to improve the community’s emergency preparedness planning using  true risk-based decisionmaking. Today, this is an agency the community can be proud of, and I’m confident the board would echo my sentiments on that. I have enjoyed my time here and greatly appreciate the opportunity given to me. I wish my successor all the best in ensuring the safety of the residents of Franklin County.


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