Hearing set on hospital recall petition

A hearing on the recall petition against Don Jacobson, the president of Valley Medical Center’s commissioners, has been set for Thursday.

A hearing on the recall petition against Don Jacobson, the president of Valley Medical Center’s commissioners, has been set for Thursday.

Chris Clifford, a Renton resident and open-government activist who filed the petition, will need to prove his case during the sufficiency hearing at 10 a.m. at King County Superior Court in Seattle.

According to the county elections department, the petition, which seeks a recall election, first had to pass through a technical review process. Then the petition was forwarded to the county prosecuting attorney. The latter generated a ballot synopsis based on the petition, and that will be considered by Judge Michael Trickey.

The synopsis is evaluated based on state law, looking for whether Jacobson committed “an act of malfeasance, or act or acts of misfeasance while in office, or has violated the oath of office, or has been guilty of any two or more of the acts specified in the Constitution as grounds for recall.”

If Clifford’s petition is deemed sufficient, he would then have six months to gather signatures to get the recall on the ballot. He would need to get 14,274 signatures.

Clifford filed the recall petition because he believes that Jacobson has inappropriately formed subcommittees of the hospital commissioners, which he said violates their bylaws. Clifford said he is also concerned about the membership of commissioners on hospital staff committees.

He said that while the participation of commissioners on those committees isn’t the issue, the fact that the recommendations made by these committees — based on Clifford’s review of meeting minutes — are always accepted by the committees, which makes them ad hoc policymaking subcommittees from Clifford’s perspective.

He alleges that these actions are a violation of the state Open Public Meetings Act and constitutes an act of malfeasance.

Jacobson and other commissioners have disputed the claim that there have been any violations of the act.

Fifty-four hospital districts in the state “all do the same thing,” Jacobson told the Reporter after the petition was filed Feb. 21.

Commissioner Mike Miller sent the Reporter an e-mail exchange between Rich Roodman, Valley Medical’s chief executive officer, and Jeff Mero, executive director of the Association of Washington Public Hospital Districts, which seemed to support Jacobson’s assertion.

Mero told Roodman that the association often gets questions about committees from its members, and that “often the person raising the issue does not understand the distinction between a ‘board committee’ and those committees (like those you characterize as management or medical staff committee) which include commissioners but are not board committees. It seems relatively clear that if the board has created a committee and given it de facto authority to act on its behalf, the public hospital district would be wise to treat the meetings of such a committee just as it would a board meeting, at least with regard to the requirements in the Open Public Meeting Act. If no such policymaking authority has been given to the committee, it does not appear the requirements of the (act) are applicable.”

Jacobson asserts the commissioners participate in these committees as non-voting members and often do so to better understand how aspects of the hospital work.