MOUNT GILEAD — The hearing for the removal of three Morrow County Hospital trustees on Thursday, Sept. 10 grew contentious and was moved from the Commissioners meeting room at Walnut Place to the larger Community Services Building meeting room.
The purpose of the hearing was to examine the charges to remove Brad Wood, Olen Jackson and Dr. Vincent Trago from the MCH Board of Trustees. Wood, Jackson and Trago were present at the beginning along with commissioners and attorneys for both the trustees and commissioners.
Judge Robert Hickson, the fourth member of the Appointing Authority for the Hospital Board of trustees,raised objections that he had been locked out of the meeting. He also had not been involved in the knowing the purpose or agenda of the hearing, or the process of collecting information for the hearing.
Hickson questioned whether the commissioners were in compliance with Sunshine laws in regards to notification of the hearing.
Because of the 25 to 30 people in the parking lot wanting to attend the meeting, it was agreed to move to the larger Community Services meeting room and the hearing resumed about 7:30 p.m.
Much of the questioning of the Commissioners attorney, Mark Landes, revolved around the three trustees participation in the Steering Committee of the Hospital Board. He attempted to establish that the committee was held in violation of the Open Meetings Act.
The commissioners alleged that they conducted public business concerning management contracts in violation of the Open Meetings Act or Sunshine Laws since they held their meetings intentionally without public notice.
Attorneys for the hospital mounted a strong defense of the trustees. Attorney Justin Burns questioned the authenticity of the documents presented by the Commissioners. He also questioned whether several documents were complete.
Burns said the Commissioners showed prejudice and failed to carry its burden of proof, citing case law in all three charges.
“The charges are frivolous, biased and prejudiced,” stated Burns as he moved to have the charges dismissed.
All three commissioners voted to deny the motion to dismiss. Judge Hickson, who objected to the legitimacy of the hearing, was no longer present to cast a vote.
Hospital Attorney William Mattes raised questions about the commissioners’ motives in steering the Morrow County Hospital toward a contract with the Avita Health System when the decision to sign a contract with OhioHealth had already been made.
Mattes also questioned why the commissioners called the Steering Committee meetings “secret” when commissioners had attended six or seven of those meetings. He asked the trustees if the commissioners had raised any objection to those meetings at the time, and they said the commissioners had not.
As Mattes questioned Wood, Jackson and Trago, they emphasized that the Steering Committee meetings that were suggested to be “secret” were for the purpose of fact gathering and receiving information from experts about the hospital.
Wood said they knew that the committee made no decisions about the hospital in the meetings. Information from the meetings was presented to the hospital board in public meetings.
After four hours, Commissioner Tom Whiston asked to conclude the hearing at 11:30 p.m. and resume the meeting the next week.
To continue hearings concerning the removal of
Morrow County Hospital Trustees under R.C. 339.02(H).
Such meeting will be held on the 17th day of September, 2020 at 6:30 P.M. online. This notice shall serve as the agenda. The hearing can be accessed here:
Meeting number (access code): 173 046 5763
Meeting password: TVj2vrvmk59