Hospital commissioners’ meeting conflict settled

The Valley Medical Center Board of Commissioners will continue meeting at 3:30 p.m., after voting on Monday to rescind a decision to meet at 6 p.m. that effectively could have resulted in the resignation of one of its newest members.

A new member no longer will face divided loyalty, possible resignation

The Valley Medical Center Board of Commissioners will continue meeting at 3:30 p.m., after voting on Monday 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 board’s previous 3-2 vote on April 21 had meant that Commissioner Anthony Hemstad, who is also the Maple Valley city manager, wouldn’t have time to attend board meetings starting at 6 and still make the Maple Valley City Council meetings 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 1 (Valley Medical). Now, he said, he’s relieved he won’t have to make that decision.

“The immediate crisis is averted,” he said.

The hospital district, the oldest and largest in Washington, includes Covington, an area of unincorporated King County near Maple Valley, Renton, Kent and the south Bellevue area. Valley Medical Center is in Renton. The organization also operates several clinics, including ones in Covington and Maple Valley.

Hemstad ran for the board and was elected last November 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 healthcare, not blazing new trails in limiting oversight,” Hemstad said. “Rescinding the vote on blocking my participation in meetings is a step in the right direction.”

He ran for office knowing that the board had met at 3:30 p.m. on Mondays for more than a decade.

Several letters and e-mails were sent to the board supporting Hemstad, including one from Dan Evans, a former governor and U.S. senator. 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 Commissioner Don Jacobson, the board chairman, 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.

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 proposal for reform.

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, the meeting will be temporarily adjourned to 6 p.m. If other business isn’t finished before 6, the board will pick up with the other business after taking public comment.

Earlier, it seemed like neither the hospital board nor Maple Valley officials 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’s Web site. He said the board will address the other ideas one or two at a time.