Representatives of St. Vincent Hospital appeared at a special meeting of the Lake County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday, Feb. 4, to oppose the board’s “and particularly Commissioner Sarah Mudge’s hostile attempt to place directors on our board,” according to a letter read by Gary Campbell, St. Vincent CEO.
At its Jan. 23 board meeting, the St. Vincent Board of Directors had intended to select someone to fill an open position on the board. There was one application, from Jonathan Burk, and the board decided to extend the deadline for applications to Feb. 13, planning to fill the vacancy at the Feb. 20 meeting.
Burk, former paramedic and interim co-director with the St. Vincent Ambulance Service, is EMS education coordinator and faculty for Colorado Mountain College. He also serves on command staff for Lake County Search and Rescue, and is an appointed member of the Lake County Emergency Service Council and ESC Working Group.
On Feb. 3, Mudge apparently sent an email to Karen Onderdonk, St. Vincent chief branding officer, asking about the vacancy on the St. Vincent board and indicating an interest on her part and that of the BOCC in being involved in filling that vacancy, according to a letter from David A. Greher of Collins, Cockrel & Cole, the law firm representing the hospital.
The Herald is currently attempting to obtain a copy of Mudge’s email.
In Greher’s letter, he pointed out that according to the Colorado Revised Statutes, no BOCC can make an appointment to fill a vacancy of the board of a special district unless it provides 30 days notice to do so and the vacancy remains open at the time the BOCC makes its appointment.
Mudge acknowledged at the start of the Feb. 4 meeting that no BOCC appointment would take place.
Representatives of the hospital and others continued to express their anger regarding what they perceived to be the desire of the BOCC to be involved in selecting board members.
Regarding Tuesday’s meeting, Campbell said it should be declared illegitimate.
“With all due respect, your status as a county commissioner does not give you powers that exceed state statute and law,” he said. “Our understanding is that you must obey Colorado law just like the rest of us, your constituents.”
Campbell continued, saying he was now speaking as a county taxpayer and not for the hospital district. He made it clear that these comments excluded Commissioner Mark Glenn.
“I am frankly appalled and disgusted that the commissioners are spending valuable time on this matter, and I question the ethics and motives for doing so,” Campbell said.
Hospital Board Chair Aleta Bezzic also questioned why the BOCC was getting involved, saying that the commissioners had never requested any additional information.
“Our board has been so successful in turning the hospital around,” she said, then suggested that commissioners come to the hospital board meetings.
Former county employee Whittney Smythe-Smith said that the BOCC should have known the proper procedure.
”It sounds like (Commissioner Sarah Mudge) sent the email without being directed – sent it as an individual.” Smythe-Smith said.
Tina Tekansik, a clerk in the Lake County Sheriff’s Office, also questioned why the BOCC even wanted to get involved in the hospital board decision.
“You can’t even run the county,” she charged.
At the end of the meeting. Glenn apologized to those attending from St. Vincent.
“The way it was handled was inappropriate. Thank you for all the work you do,” he said.
Commission Chair Kayla Marcella also offered an apology.
No matter who is appointed to the hospital board on Feb. 20, that individual will have to run for office during the May 5, 2020, election in order to stay on the board. Applications to run are available on the St. Vincent Hospital website (svghd.org) and are due on Feb. 28.
Current hospital board members Bezzic and Craig Stuller, who were appointed to their positions, will also have to run in May to retain their positions.
Shirley Hoffacker and Francine Webber have two years remaining of their board terms.