RGH board eligibility questioned

By Sarah Meyer: PNT Staff Writer

The Roosevelt General Hospital Board of Directors is considering a policy that would prohibit hospital employees from running for election to the board.

James D’Agostino, hospital administrator, said during Tuesday’s meeting that other public entities in the county do not allow employees to run for board positions. The proposed policy also addresses the hiring of employees related to board members.

D’Agostino said having an employee serve on the board constitutes a conflict of interest.

“There’s a lot they can’t vote on,” he said. “They would be ineffective as a board member.”

Board member Peggy Davis, a pharmacist who once worked at the hospital, said such a policy is already basically in place.

“You told me the only way I could run for the board was to resign, so I did,” she said to D’Agostino.

Board chairman Terry Cone said the policy is needed “in order to save any questions in the future.”

Bill Rice, cardiac rehabilitation manager at the hospital, failed in his bid for the District 5 hospital board seat in this month’s general election.

Local attorney Eric Dixon said people have a First Amendment right to run for office.

“There’s no statute prohibiting an employee from running for office,” he said. “I think you’re just inviting a lawsuit.”

Davis said employees could be effective board members.

“There’s nobody that knows more about the hospital than employees,” she said.

Dr. Bert Wofford addressed the topic.

“Whether they could serve is the question,” he said.

The board is the “boss” of the administrator, while he is the employee’s boss.

“You can’t be your own boss’s boss,” Wofford said. “It’s a conflict of interest, in my opinion.”

The board agreed to table the issue until the next regular meeting.

In other action Tuesday, the Roosevelt General Hospital Board of Directors:

• Heard a financial report.

• Approved a staff report certifying three employees.

• Approved department policies and procedures.

• Elected Terry Cone to serve as chairman of the board for 2009.

• Elected Lonnie Alexander to serve as secretary/treasurer of the board for 2009.

• Discussed conflict of interest statements, which must be signed by physicians and department managers.

• Discussed the hospital’s master plan and plans for expansion.

• Discussed the need to change the hospital’s employee retirement plan from a 403b to a 401k. A special meeting will be held within the next week or two to discuss the pending change.