This is in response to your request for my opinion as to whether, and if so, to what extent, the Mental Health/Mental Retardation/Substance Abuse (MH/MR/SA) regional board has authority over the board's executive director. As you have noted in your inquiry, my response will turn on an interpretation of Ga. Laws 1993, p. 1445 et seq. (codified at O.C.G.A. § 37-2-1 et seq.; popularly referred to as "H.B. 100"), a comprehensive restructuring of the state's mental disability services delivery system.

As I understand it, you are particularly concerned in knowing whether the regional board itself may hire or fire its executive director. You have indicated that you wish to evaluate the current system for possible amendment by the legislature. You are correct in observing that in O.C.G.A. § 37-2-5.1(b) the executive director is declared to be an employee of the state MH/MR/SA division (hereinafter "the state division"). As such, the regional executive director is to be appointed by the state division director; however, it is important to note that the executive director may be "appointed to serve the regional board only with such board's approval." O.C.G.A. § 37-2-5.1(a) (emphasis added). Therefore, although the regional board may not directly hire its own executive director, it essentially has veto power over each director-designate selected by the state division director.

As to termination of employment, the statute provides that the "executive director shall serve at the pleasure of the division director." O.C.G.A. § 37-2-5.1(a). However, that same Section provides that:

[a]t any time during the tenure of the executive director, the regional board may for good cause vote to request the removal of the executive director. Should such a vote for removal be taken and be approved by a majority of the full board membership, the board shall submit its request to the director of the division who shall in turn comply with the request of the board.

Id. (emphasis added). Therefore, it would appear that termination of the executive director's employment may be effectuated by either the state division director or a majority of the regional board membership.

In conclusion, it is my unofficial opinion that the executive director to a MH/MR/SA regional board may be hired by the state division director only with the approval of the regional board, and may be fired by the state division director, either on his own initiative or in compliance with the request of a majority of the regional board membership.

Prepared by:

Senior Assistant Attorney General