[Vision2020] Some on Gritman board seek open meeting

Moscow Cares moscowcares at moscow.com
Wed Jul 12 01:14:57 PDT 2017

Courtesy of today's (July 12, 2017) Moscow-Pullman Daily News.

Some on Gritman board seek open meeting
Session to 'correct record' closed to all, except members, lawyers
By Shanon Quinn, Daily News staff writer

A public meeting is Gritman Medical Center's best bet in restoring the community's confidence in its business and board of directors, according to several general board members polled Tuesday by the Daily News.

At 4:45 Tuesday afternoon, the special board meeting called last week and set for tonight was still closed, despite urging by some board members that it be open to the public, and concerns by other general board members that the presence of hospital attorneys fails to mesh with the definition of a closed meeting.

The meeting, called by hospital president and CEO Kara Besst on June 30, was originally intended to address two issues: to "correct the record" concerning conflicts of interest of board chair Greg Kimberling, and "to solicit a vote from the GMC General Board Members for the removal of BJ Swanson as a member of the GMC Board of Directors and as a General Member of GMC," according to an email from Besst to the board.

The question of how Kimberling was handling those conflicts of interest once he had become board chair became public last month when someone leaked a confidential memo Swanson had sent to the board. She argued that Kimberling was refusing to adequately address them, namely that his sister owns Sprenger Construction and shares an office with Greg Kimberling Insurance Agency, both of which do significant business with the hospital.

Swanson, who served as board chair 2001-16, resigned July 3 from the board of directors, the general board, its auxiliary and the Gritman Foundation board before she could be ousted. She raised questions about the replacement of Greg Mann on the board of directors and the resignations of several Gritman financial and construction managers.

Swanson's most recent communique, emailed to board members Monday, requested the closed meeting be opened to the public.

Gritman's general board has 40 members, including the 10-member board of directors.

In an email between board member Tom Trail, a longtime state representative, and chair Kimberling, Trail wrote the meeting should be open to the public and ensure the presence of "those important elements of full transparency and accountability," which can help avoid future criticism.

Trail wrote he has had numerous questions from residents concerned with what is going on behind the closed doors of the medical center's boardrooms.

"Gritman's reputation is being tarnished by the perception that 'all is not above board' in terms the process by which decisions are reached," he wrote. "Several local citizens have told me that they feel the closed General Board meeting is simply a kangaroo court to put the final nail in BJs coffin."

Trail is not alone.

Board member Roger Wallins told the Daily News he was uncertain whether tonight was the best time to hold an open meeting on the subject, but "depending on what happens in there" a public meeting may be necessary.

Board member Cathy Mabbut, attorney and county coroner, seemed to agree with Wallins.

"I would be fine having it open tomorrow or having a meeting and then having another open meeting," she said in an email.

Don Strong, another member of the board, said he doesn't see any reason for the meeting to be closed.

"It seems like it's all a secret behind closed doors," he said. "And if it's just the board members, why are they bringing their lawyers?"

In an email to Besst's executive assistant Danielle Breed, board member Murf Raquet, retired Daily News city editor, also advocated for an open meeting.

"The concerns I've heard about town are many, and people would like - and deserve - some answers," he wrote. "A closed meeting that seeks to resolve open conflicts does little to ease the problem in the public's mind."

Raquet wrote that "above-board dialog, although uncomfortable, is the best way to set matters to rest."

Lowell Stevens, CEO of Latah Federal Credit Union, wrote that a forum between community members and the board would be beneficial, but some aspects of it could not be discussed openly due to employee rights and privacy law.

"In a small town setting it's very easy to forget that trust is based on what people believe is happening whether it is or not," he said.

Rachel Rausch, UI extension program coordinator, said in an email a public meeting would demystify the board's goings on and help mitigate the damage caused by a perceived cover up.

"I fear anything less would be viewed by some as simply sweeping the issues under the carpet," she said. "The public rightly wants assurance that business by Gritman is always conducted fairly and with integrity."


Seeya 'round town, Moscow, because . . .

"Moscow Cares" (the most fun you can have with your pants on)
Tom Hansen
Moscow, Idaho

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