The Trios Health board made a good move recently when it decided to use a different approach in hiring an outside consultant for the hospital district.
Its original process was flawed, controversial and appeared to skirt the state open meetings law. It also seemed to further widen the divide on the board.
When those in the minority bloc questioned the legality of the original strategy, we were afraid both sides of the issue would be so firmly dug in that contention among board members would only get worse.
But to our relief, that didn’t happen.
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A conciliatory effort prevailed, and instead of a continued power struggle, most members of the board managed to reach a consensus. This is the first time in a long time board members showed signs of cooperating with one another.
We hope this is the start of a new supportive trend, and not a forced blip in the group’s dynamics.
The Trios Health board has been divided into two camps — with a 4-3 split — for months. Prior to this year, the majority wanted to continue down the path laid out by hospital administrators, while the minority trio of Rick Reil, Marv Kinney and Kathy Davidson wanted to bring in a consultant to help manage the hospital district.
There was a financial crunch in 2014 when Trios opened its new hospital at its Southridge site, prompting layoffs and fiscal uncertainty. Figuring out how to recover from the budget crisis has continued to be a sore point.
With the addition of Don Campbell to the board this year, the balance tipped in favor of getting outside help. The new dominating force wasted no time in setting up a way to hire a consultant that would have assumed much of the authority of the current CEO for six months while changes were being made.
In order to move the plan along quickly, the group decided to form an ad-hoc committee to narrow the field of companies to be considered for the job. Kinney ended up appointing Campbell, Davidson and Reil, and they sent out requests for proposals to firms without a full board discussion.
This caught the rest of the hospital board members by surprise. They expected committee members to draft a request for proposal, but thought they would get a chance to view and discuss it before it was sent out. They believed the committee overstepped its authority and broke the open meetings law.
We questioned the process as well, saying that a decision of such magnitude should have been discussed in the open.
The minority board members asked for a legal opinion on the process, and the attorney contacted suggested that it would have been prudent for the committee to bring the request for proposal back to the full board before sending it out.
Kinney, who is board president, said the board could have done nothing with the attorney’s suggestion, restarted the process or asked the hospital CEO to make a recommendation.
Fortunately, five of the seven board members agreed to drop the controversial plan and instead seek a three-year management proposal from Quorum Health Resources, one of the firms that had been considered.
Kinney said the idea was a consensus of the board.
This is significant. For too long this board has been unable to get along. Now it appears they are finally headed in an encouraging direction, and we hope they will continue down this cooperative path.