April 5, 2012 | Vol. 39, No. 14

Petitions ask to recall WMC Board members

WRANGELL Eight recall petition applications to remove all but one member of the Wrangell Medical Center (WMC) Board of Directors have been filed with the City and Borough of Wrangell.

WMC Board members included in the petitions are WMC Board Chair Mark Robinson, Vice Chair Jim Nelson and Linda Bjorge, Sylvia Ettafaugh, Jake Harris, Lurine McGee, Dee Norman, and LeAnn Rinehart.

The sole WMC Board member not included in the petitions is Dorothy Hunt-Sweat.

Wrangell resident Gary Allen, Sr. is the main sponsor of the petitions, and Michael V. Ottesen, Sr., is the alternate sponsor.

The recall petition applications were filed in Borough Clerk Christie Jamieson’s office Friday, March 30.

On Monday, Jamieson said, in consultation with borough attorneys from Hoffman & Blasco, LLC law firm, she found each of the eight recall petition applications sufficient, as they met all the requirements listed in the Wrangell Municipal Code.

Those requirements include having at least ten signatures on the petition application, as well as a statement explaining why the recall of the elected official is necessary.

According to the municipal code, grounds for recall of elected officials are “misconduct in office, incompetence, or failure to perform prescribed duties.”

The WMC Board violated Wrangell Municipal Code in three separate instances, according to the recall charges associated with the petitions.

The charges state that on Aug. 17, 2011, the WMC Board prohibited the Borough Assembly liaison from participating in an executive session.

City ordinance states the Assembly liaison “shall represent the Assembly and attend and participate in all [WMC] Board meetings and all executive sessions…”

The WMC Board also violated municipal code when it authorized the WMC administrator to enter into contracts with a financer and a developer for construction of a borough-owned building, the recall charges state.

According to the Aug. 17, 2011 WMC Board agenda, board members entered an executive session for discussion and possible action regarding a letter from InnoVative Capital, LLC.

InnoVative is the financier listed in the recall charges as a company the WMC Board wrongly entered into a contract with.

The third charge associated with the recall petitions states the WMC Board violated the Wrangell Municipal Code on conflicts of interest.

The WMC Board “knowingly allowed a member of the board, whose ‘immediate family member’ has a substantial financial interest in the outcome of legal action this immediate family member is taking against a particular physician, to participate in discussions and action pertaining to approving the privileging of said physician at [WMC],” the recall charges state.

WMC Board member Nelson is married to WMC Director of Nursing Services Sue Nelson, and was asked to recuse himself during a fair review hearing in February regarding hospital privileging of local physician Greg Salard.

According to a transcript of the review hearing, Salard’s attorney asked Nelson to leave as his wife was involved in gathering the complaints filed at WMC against Salard. Those complaints were used as evidence in the review process of the doctor’s hospital privileges.

WMC Chair Robinson said Nelson would be able to “divide his marriage” from his decisions on the board, according to the transcript of the Feb. 21 hearing.

Jim Nelson and Robinson could not be reached for comment prior to deadline.

Recall petition sponsor Allen said, along with the wrongdoings of the WMC Board, he is disappointed in the way the city-owned hospital is being run and how the Board of Directors is conducting itself.

Allen said how the WMC Board has dealt with the denial of Salard’s hospital privileges is also among the reasons he is sponsoring the recall petitions. He said WMC Board member Hunt-Sweat is not included in the eight recall petitions because she has publicly come out as being against the Board’s decision to deny Salard privileges at the hospital.

While Allen said he is not interested in running for the WMC Board himself, he believes having eight new members would improve the hospital.

He said he feels there are many other members of the community who feel the same, and said sponsors would be out canvassing for signatures on the petitions this week.

“I am very confident we will get enough signatures to do this,” Allen said.

The recall petitions now need 94 signatures each before they can be turned back into City Hall and then go before the Borough Assembly. The signatures need to be collected within 60 days of the petition being issued, according to the municipal code.

The number of signatures needed is determined by 25 percent of the number of votes cast in the last election for the public office being petitioned for recall. Jamieson said the last election in Wrangell was October 2011.

However, a petition is not valid for an official whose term expires within 180 days. As of today, there are 181 days until three of the WMC Board member terms being petitioned for recall expire. Terms for WMC Board members McGee, Norman and Rinehart expire in October.

Jamieson said she would need the recall petitions for those board members turned into her with the necessary signatures by the end of today in order for them to be valid.

McGee said Monday she was unaware of the petition to recall her and other WMC Board members. However, she said when her term expires later this year, she was not planning to run again for the position.

At 89 years old, McGee said she is ready to let someone younger who has an interest in the town and the hospital step into the board position.

“I thought I have done the best that I could,” she said. “And, it’s time to let new people who are working at the hospital, working in town, have young children, to have the positions now of running the town.”

WMB Board member Bjorge said if the community has no confidence in the board, than the members should be recalled. She said she is not disturbed by the recall petitions and would not mind not being on the WMC Board.

“I won’t weep and cry if I’m not on there,” she said.

However, Bjorge said she will stand behind the WMC Board, as its members and she have done nothing to harm the citizens of Wrangell.

“I’m not going to just desert them, because I don’t think they have done wrong,” she said.

Calls were made to all WMC Board members included in the recall petitions, but the Sentinel was unsuccessful in reaching all for comment.

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