Valley Medical Center board makes changes
February 1, 2012 · 2:26 PM
The Valley Medical Center Board of Commissioners met for the first time in 2012 on Jan. 16 and there were some clear changes and some things looked very similar.
Dr. Paul Joos, elected in November after defeating Mary Alice Heuschel, was chosen as the president of the board. Commissioner Anthony Hemstad will be the vice president and Commissioner Sue Bowman will serve as secretary.
Once the officers were selected, the board then approved hiring the Issaquah law firm Kenyon Disend to represent the commission. The resolution passed on a 3-2 vote with Hemstad, Dr. Aaron Heide and Joos voting yes while Bowman and Carolyn Parnell were in dissent.
A second resolution was presented to hire Michael Mathias as an interim hospital superintendent. Currently the position is filled by Jeannine Grinnell.
The board bylaws state it takes two meetings to pass the resolution to hire Mathias.
"This is no aspersion whatsoever on Jeannine Grinnell, who is very professional and has done an excellent job on finances," Hemstad said. "The idea is we may need a wider array of staff support in the interim period on a wide variety of non-financial issues."
Mathias is an economist and served as the Maple Valley assistant city manager in 2007 when Hemstad was city manager.
Prior to the vote hiring the Kenyon Disend law firm Hemstad stated, "for a long time we've needed legal counsel that reports directly to the board of commissioners, not through other staff. That gives us independent counsel."
Hemstad described Kenyon Disend as the "best municipal law firm in Washington state. They provide counsel to many different public institutions."
Bowman questioned the reason for hiring an attorney to represent the board stating, "We have legal counsel – Mr. (David) Smith."
Hemstad countered stating, "Yes and he reports through the CEO (Rich Roodman). There have been times when we've needed counsel looking after the interests of the public more than the administration. (Kenyon Disend) would not be part of the bonus program for instance, which potentially could influence the type of advice we get."
Parnell said she agreed with Bowman. "We have legal counsel. He's cheap, his interests are not only of the hospital but the public and he has served us well. Any questions have been answered. As far as I'm concerned he is just fine. He's here, he knows all about the hospital and how it runs."
Heide stated he was supporting the resolution. "I was threatened with a lawsuit if I were to continue speaking out about my beliefs for how this place should be run…. I approached David Smith with the issue and he said, 'Because of my bias I cannot discuss this with you,' and he handed it off to a different attorney…. I think we need independent counsel… based on this one example. He cannot represent us on an external lawsuit. We really truly need independent counsel."
Bowman questioned how the firm would be paid, since it was not added to the 2012 budget.
"Where are you going to get the money to pay for legal counsel?" Bowman asked.
Hemstad said, "We are an elected body and we have statutory ability. We can easily amend out budget."
Bowman stated, "Any extra money has to come from the approval of the alliance board…. We can't approve this tonight."
Hemstad countered, "Of course we can approve this tonight. We are an elected body and we are not dictated to by any other group that is unelected."
Bowman said during a phone interview Tuesday she did not know prior to the meeting about the resolution to hire Kenyon Disend as the legal counsel for the board.
She stated she supported the alliance between Valley and University of Washington Medicine.
"I am hopeful we can all work together soon," Bowman said.
Hemstad said when reached by phone Tuesday, "All the steps we took at the last meeting were to reestablish the authority of the elected board. We have statutory oversight and responsibility and we should not have abdicated that."
Hemstad said the payment of the firm, which could be either hourly or by retainer, will be considered at the next meetings. The commissioner also stated changes to the bylaws will likely be presented at the next meetings.