Sparks fly on Valley Medical Center board over an anonymous e-mail and videos

The battle lines on the Valley Medical Center Board of Commissioners continue to be starkly drawn with withering hostility marking the business of the meetings.

The Oct. 18 meeting was once again rocked with controversy and contention, which was centered on an anonymous e-mail and videos made of clips from the meeting tapes produced by the staff at the direction of Valley Superintendent Rich Roodman.

The anonymous e-mail was sent to The Reporter, some of the board members, the administration and the State Auditor. According to the e-mail, the video clips are focused on Commissioner Dr. Aaron Heide. The e-mail stated the video is intended to portray Heide, “in a negative light, discredit him, and build support for Rich and the three board members that are blind supporters of Rich.”

The e-mail goes on to state copies of the videos excerpts were “distributed to managers and physicians on the medical staff by Rich and his administrators.”

Over the past few meetings, Heide has been locked in a struggle with Roodman, the executive staff and three board members, President Sue Bowman and commissioners Don Jacobson and Carolyn Parnell over questions he raised about the 2010 incentive payments plan for the executive and management staff.

Heide also made a statements at the Sept. 20 meeting about the management of the hospital placing profit over patient care.

This brought a series of public statements from the staff refuting Heide’s contentions and describing their commitment to high quality patient care.

Once the video produced by the staff came to light, a new round of trouble began, which included a motion by Commissioner Anthony Hemstad to suspend Roodman while an independent investigation was conducted. The motion failed 3-2.

During the course of the Oct. 18 meeting Heide and Hemstad asked a series of pointed questions regarding the video. Roodman stated the video excerpts were taken from the board meeting videos, which are available on the Valley Medical website. The superintendent said it was within his right and authority as superintendent to use the excerpts to communicate with his staff.

The clash begins

Heide was first to raise the issue at the meeting. The members were attempting to approve the minutes when Heide began asking Roodman about the video.

“It has come to my attention something may have been released to the press about a tape that was produced... a DVD... a culmination of me,” Heide said. “Am I the star of this particular entity?”

The board President ruled Heide was “out of order” because it was not the proper time for him to ask the questions, stating it should be done during commissioner’s comments.

Heide refused to stop asking questions stating he believed he “deserved an answer.”

Following an argument and a five-minute recess, Hemstad made a motion to amend the agenda allowing discussion of the video, which failed. Hemstad again moved to amend the agenda allowing discussion of “misuse of power by the administration and slandering a commissioner.”

Hemstad stated he thought there was an “elephant in the room right now about this DVD.” The commissioner said the issue will be “discussed one way or another.”

Jacobson spoke against the motion to amend stating he believed the agenda was meant to take care of the business and the members “shouldn’t get into this contentious stuff until after we are done.”

The second motion failed. A short time later Hemstad moved to add the item after the business items on the agenda. This also failed.

The members became embroiled in a discussion centered on when Heide could ask his questions.

“I want this on the agenda as a question-answer session,” Heide said. “Not just commissioner comments.”

Jacobson said, “If you wanted it on the agenda maybe you should have called and had it put on the agenda.”

Heide stated he believed, “there is possibly some illegal activity going on at this hospital I think needs to be addressed before we can move on with other business at hand.”

The issue came up later in the meeting when Hemstad asked to reconsider the approval of financial expenditures that may have contained payments for memory sticks or DVDs/CDs used to make copies of videos. The commissioner stated he believed it was a possible misuse of public funds.

Roodman said about 100 copies of a video “produced in-house” were made at a cost of about $115 for the CDs and thumb drives.

The superintendent stated he “welcomed the opportunity to speak to the allegations within the anonymous e-mail as well as the allegations put forth by both of you (Hemstad and Heide).” Roodman said he would wait until the board president ruled it was time for the question and answer session.

The financial expenditure vote passed 3-2 with Hemstad and Heide dissenting.

The fireworks continued following the marketing department presentation. Heide and Hemstad asked about the involvement of the marking department concerning the videos.

Barbara Mitchell, from human resources and marketing, said the department did not produce the videos.

After considerably more wrangling, gavel pounding and Bowman declaring Heide was out of order and the commissioner insisting he should be given time to ask his questions and get answers, Bowman finally said Heide could proceed.

Questions and answers

Heide again asked Roodman if a video was made, “where I am the star?”

Roodman stated three video segments were produced in house, with each being about 5 minutes long. One involved a statement made by Heide at the Sept. 20 meeting during commissioner’s comments criticizing the hospital administration. Roodman said another involved a contentious segment with Heide from the Sept. 7 meeting that resulted in the board president bringing in a parliamentarian.

According to Roodman the management staff and executive committee have “had increasing concerns about what goes on in these meetings.”

The superintendent said he had the videos excerpts produced, “In order to communicate clearly and in order to entice the management team and medical staff to come to these meetings.”

Roodman said he did not alter anything or create anything and it was within his authority and contract to produce the video excerpts and make copies for the management and medical staff.

Roodman said of the recent contentious meetings, “The situation is bizarre. I don’t know any other way to explain it.”

He said at the end of the videos he provided the statement, “The above is provided in the spirit of transparency. Anyone wishing to view the entire board meeting should do so by accessing Valley’s external website.”

He stated the intent was “to communicate internally what’s going on here. Look, you guys asked for audio-video taping of these meetings, repeatedly, and what came out was a dysfunctional, contentious situation.”

He said the commissioners “had the right to disagree with my judgment, but you do not have the right to censor my communications from a public document.”

Heide said, “This particular issue, I think, is inexcusable, over the top and potentially illegal and opens ourselves for litigation. I think it is absolutely poor judgment.”

The commissioner said he thought there would be “serious ramifications from this.”

Roodman said, “You guys wanted complete transparency. It’s weird for you guys now to suggest somehow you don’t like the way you are shown.”

The superintendent added he was appalled at the Sept. 7 meeting and “I thought it was important to be clear why we had digressed to this point.”

Heide said, “This is disingenuous to take things out of context. I think if you are going to show it, show it in an unbiased fashion rather than try to rile up and undermine part of (the) commissioners’ duties.”

Heide said he believed he was asking “appropriate questions” that have not been asked or answered previously.

The motion

Hemstad commented he thought Roodman’s actions showed, “stunningly bad judgment, to be spending public resources for trying to settle scores with Dr. Heide. It is shocking and concerning and I’m sorry, it calls your judgment into question.”

Hemstad said he thought the matter needed to be investigated by an independent agency. He followed the statement with a motion to “suspend Rich Roodman and request the King County Prosecutor’s Office investigate misuse of public funds to slander a commissioner.”

Hemstad went on to add, “this behavior would be unacceptable in any other government body. Generally if someone were to do something like this they would be fired immediately.”

Parnell spoke to the motion stating, “This man (Roodman) has been here over 25 years. Do you think this hospital has survived with him not having good judgment? What is wrong? What is wrong? You can’t come here and get our business done and go our different ways. I am so totally embarrassed.”

Parnell went on to add, “This is really bad. Somebody is trying to get rid of Rich and I think you two (Heide and Hemstad) know what is going on and you two sit there and plot and plot and plot.”

Roodman spoke to the motion stating, “I believe your motion is an attempt to malign and smear my reputation. I believe you know this is not a misuse of public funds. I believe you know this is my prerogative to do.”

Jacobson said he saw no evidence presented of misuse of funds.

“In the past you (Hemstad) have had pretty good access to the attorney general’s office,” Jacobson said. “I think that might be the place to ask that question. I don’t see that as our responsibility at this point.”

Bowman, Jacobson and Parnell voted against the motion to suspend Roodman and request an independent investigation. Hemstad and Heide vote yes.

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