A new member of the elected board that oversees Valley Medical Center faces an uncertain future on the board with a change of meeting times to Monday evening.
The member, Anthony Hemstad, is the city manager for Maple Valley, running that city’s day-to-day operations. He was narrowly elected to the Public Hospital No. 1 Board of Commissioners last fall.
Hemstad has been at the center of a months-long controversy over his ties to Sen. Pam Roach, who contributed to his campaign and opposed a controversial annexation of a large area, including Maple Valley, to the hospital district.
Hemstad of Kent defeated long-time board member Carole Anderson in the November general election by 108 votes in a machine recount.
Until June 1, the hospital board meets at 3:30 p.m. the first and third Mondays of the month. After June 1, the board will meet at 6 p.m., just an hour before the Maple Valley City Council begins its meetings.
It’s unlikely that either the hospital board or the Maple Valley City Council will change their meeting time or date to accommodate Hemstad’s schedule.
Now, Hemstad must decide how he will juggle the responsibilities of running a city and overseeing a major public hospital. He was still considering his options this week. He wasn’t ready to answer the question: Will you resign from the hospital board?
“I really need to digest this more,” he said.
However, he said he ran as a reform candidate to provide more oversight of board and hospital operations.
“While this journey has not been enjoyable at all, it would be unfair to citizens of Public Hospital District No. 1 for me to resign,” he said, just as he begins to fulfill his campaign promises.
But, he also said he needs to make a living.
He said changing the board meeting time is a “blatant” attempt force him to resign, a sentiment shared by Maple Valley Mayor Laure Iddings.
“It couldn’t be more obvious,” he said.
The hospital board voted 3-2 on Monday to change its meeting time from 3:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. after a sometimes-tense debate between Hemstad and other members of the board.
Hemstad’s amendment to hold the hospital board meetings the first and third Tuesdays of the month failed for a lack of a second.
The board has met at 3:30 p.m. Mondays since January 1996. For many years prior to that, the board met two Thursdays a month at 7:30 a.m. That early start also raised concerns that the public didn’t have a chance to attend board meetings.
Board chairman Don Jacobson said it’s not the case that the board is trying for force Hemstad to resign. It was Hemstad, he said, who proposed that the board move its meetings to the evening.
Jacobson said it would be up to the Maple Valley City Council to change its meeting date or time.
“We aren’t creating the conflict,” Jacobson said in an interview. “He (Hemstad) made the conflict.”
Part of Hemstad’s reform platform was to move the hospital board’s meetings to the evening, in order to give the public a greater opportunity to observe and comment on the board’s actions.
Although not specified in his 10-point reform plan, Hemstad made it clear to the board on several occasions that a Monday night meeting would not work for him.
Asked whether the Maple Valley City Council would change its meeting date and time to accommodate the new board schedule, Iddings, the Maple Valley mayor, answered with a question.
“Why would we do that?” she said.
She pointed out the City Council meets in space borrowed from the Tahoma School District. That board room is used by the Tahoma School Board on the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month and other community organizations on other nights of the week, she said.
“This isn’t an issue for Maple Valley,” Iddings said. It’s up to the hospital board to “take care” of its elected officials. “And shame of them if they are not,” she said.
With the change effective on June 1, Jacobson said Hemstad has a month to find a solution. Changing the Maple Valley council date is “a reasonable solution,” he said.
He is worried that the media reports over the board controversy will make it harder to recruit physicians and nurses for the hospital.
He said the four other members of the hospital board are committed to their jobs and the hospital district.
“I don’t think the board is dysfunctional,” Jacobson said. “We have a dysfunctional member.”
Hemstad said he has been outspoken about his concerns over hospital and board operations. The answer is to not stop people from talking about those concerns, he said.
That, he said, “is the antithesis of open government.”
Dean A. Radford can be reached at 425-255-3484, ext. 5050, or at email@example.com.