Decision is a relief for new board member
The Valley Medical Center Board of Commissioners will continue meeting at 3:30 p.m., after voting May 5 to rescind a decision to meet at 6 p.m. that effectively could have resulted in the resignation of one of its newest members.
The hospital board’s 3-2 vote on April 21 meant that the member, Anthony Hemstad, who is also the Maple Valley city manager, would not have had time to attend the board meetings starting at 6 p.m., and still make the Maple Valley City Council meeting at 7 p.m.
Hemstad had until June 1 to figure out a solution, which could have included resigning from the board of Public Hospital District No. 1.
Now he said he’s relieved he won’t have to make that decision.
“The immediate crisis is averted,” he said.
Hemstad had run for the board as a reform candidate, following an annexation election in 2006 that resulted in the levying of huge fines by the state Public Disclosure Commission against two key hospital officials, including top administrator Rich Roodman.
“I want VMC to focus on being on the cutting edge of quality health care, not blazing new trails in limiting oversight,” said Hemstad, who lives in Kent. “Rescinding the vote on blocking my participation in meetings is a step in the right direction.”
He ran for office knowing that the board met 3:30 p.m. Mondays for more than a decade.
Several letters and e-mails were sent to the hospital board supporting Hemstad, including one from former governor and U.S. senator, Dan Evans. Hemstad was a member of Evans’ Senate staff.
Hemstad said he suspects the “large amount of public pressure” played a role in the board’s decision.
But board chairman Don Jacobson, who presented the motion to rescind the earlier decision, said that’s not the case. He spoke about rescinding the decision to meet later on Monday before any public or board comment at the meeting.
“That was not the issue at all,” Jacobson said of the e-mails and letters sent to the board.
In an interview, he again pointed out that it was Hemstad’s own suggestion to move the meeting to later in the day to give the public a chance to comment at board meetings, part of Hemstad’s 10-point reform package.
Hemstad suggested that the board move its meetings to another day, but the board declined such a move.
Jacobson suggested a compromise, which the board approved unanimously:
• Continue meeting at 3:30 p.m. the first and third Mondays of each month;
• Take public comment at 6 p.m., regardless of where the board is in its meeting agenda.
• If the other business is completed prior to 6 p.m., the meeting will be temporarily adjourned to 6 p.m.;
• If other business is not completed before 6 p.m., the board will pick up with the other business after taking public comment.
Earlier, it seemed like neither the hospital board nor Maple Valley would budge on changing meeting dates to accommodate Hemstad’s schedule. Each said it was the other’s responsibility to come up with a solution.
Taking comment at 6 p.m. will allow for better audience comment, Jacobson said. He said he and others have been concerned “for a long time” about the public comment period.
Hemstad said in an interview that he will continue to work on what he calls “good-government reforms.” A top priority is to record board meetings, he said.
Jacobson said the board already has adopted one of Hemstad’s suggestions, posting agendas and minutes on the hospital Web site. He said the board will address the other ideas one or two at a time.
Dean A. Radford can be reached at 425-255-3484, ext. 5050, or at email@example.com.