MOUNT GILEAD — In a special meeting of the Morrow County Hospital (MCH) Appointing Authority Wednesday Sept. 30, three members of the Appointing Authority (Morrow County Commissioners) removed MCH board trustees Brad Wood, Olen Jackson and Dr. Vincent Trago from the hospital board.
The Appointing Authority is made up of the three Morrow County Commissioners and Judge Robert Hickson, who was not present. Thirty-eight people attended the meeting online in WebEx.
Commissioner Tom Whiston served as Chairman of the meeting and reviewed the reasons and charges for the three trustee’s removal. He pointed out that each side had the opportunity to present evidence and a defense of the charges.
Motion to dismiss
The attorneys for the hospital board filed a “motion to dismiss charges as facially defective” with the Appointing Authority, which denied it. The next step would be to file the motion in Common Pleas Court.
An email copy was sent to The Sentinel. Excerpts below:
“…it appears that certain members of the Appointing Authority conducted an independent investigation of facts presented during the hearing, made judgment based on those facts and communicated their personal opinion(s) regarding those facts to the press,” it reads.
“Respondents request that the members of the Appointing Authority recuse themselves as decision-makers in these proceedings. Respondents also request oral argument before a court reporter regarding this Motion.”
The motion is signed by William M. Mattes of Dinsmore & Shohl, LLP.
Charge one alleges that Wood, Jackson and Trago were in violation of the Open Meetings Act and of conducting public business in several closed and unannounced meetings. These meetings were held as “Steering Committee Meetings.”
Whiston read segments of emails between the three trustees, which commissioners allege show that there was discussion of items including the “timing and closing of the hospital” without public notice or the full board attending.
Whiston noted that their defense last week was that they were “fact finding” in these steering meetings. However, he said emails between the trustees show discussion rather than fact finding. He said it was clear they knew that the steering committee meetings were set up to get around the public meeting qualifications of the hospital board.
Charge two consists of the trustees’ approval of unlawful contracts with OhioHealth. Commissioners contend that despite millions of dollars of losses caused by OhioHealth’s management, the three trustees voted to approve multiple contracts with OhioHealth, including a management agreement and an asset purchase agreement that sold the MCH doctors’ practices and their physical assets.
Whiston contended that the trustees’ emails show the steering committee had decided on OhioHealth as early as October in 2018 without a full board report or public notice of meetings. A November 2018 agenda of discussion items for the steering committee lists “timing and sequencing of closing the hospital.”
Whiston asserted that they allowed OhioHealth, a competitor to run the hospital into the ground so they could receive Morrow County Hospital’s business.
No increase in number
The commissioners then proceeded to vote unanimously to remove the three trustees from the MCH board of trustees.
There was a brief discussion about the possibility of increasing the MCH board of trustees from eight to 10 members. Commissioner Burgess Castle said it’s good to have more opinions from a larger number of people. They agreed that this is not a good time to increase the number on the board of trustees and the motion to increase the number failed.
There are now three vacancies on the MCH board of trustees. Castle said that Commissioners received seven applications for MCH Board membership after their request for applications last week. The criteria for application to the hospital board include: an interest in the hospital, work and business experience and past volunteer work in the community.
Commissioners recessed to review the seven applications for board membership. Upon returning to the meeting, Castle noted that all seven were good people with excellent qualifications. Warren Davis said he was pleased with the number of people who stepped up for the position.
The commissioners then approved three as new MCH Board of Trustee members: Richard Benson for Brad Wood’s position, Ken Davies for Olen Jackson’s position and Dennis Leader for Dr. Vincent Trago’s position.
Commissioners concluded the meeting of the Appointing Authority at 6 p.m. without asking for comments or questions.
Defense arguments for the trustees can be read in the Sept.16 Morrow County Sentinel article, “Hearing for Hospital trustees continues,” and in the Sept. 23 Sentinel article “Hospital trustees seek to dismiss charges.” Morrow County residents opinions can be seen in the Sept. 30 Sentinel article, “Morrow County residents speak to commissioners.”