A regular action item — annual officer appointments — turned into an item of contention recently as the Ector County Hospital District board of directors voted for a board president.
Accusations of disrespect started during a regular meeting June 5, but when a tie vote due to board member Richard Herrera’s absence couldn’t determine who the board chair would be, the vote was delayed until the entire board could meet during a special session Tuesday.
The vote was between second-year board member Don Hallmark and longtime District 6 board member and board president Mary Thompson.
Hallmark said when he and District 1 board member Bryn Dodd were elected in May 2017, they came up against an authoritarian CEO and a situation where there was no information forthcoming. While the leadership in administration has changed since then, Hallmark said the leadership on the board has not.
Hallmark said Thompson has screamed and yelled at other board members just to get her point across and when people don’t vote the way she tells them to, she won’t talk to them, look at them or even see them.
Dodd said Thompson lacked the ability to accept that other board members may have different opinions and viewpoints.
“You have treated me, as well as others, with complete disrespect due to a difference of opinion. I have a great concern for anyone leading this board who refuses to recognize the issues within this hospital,” Dodd said.
A year ago, Dodd said they all sat in the same room and Thompson, along with other board members and administration disregarded every concern she had. Fast forward to today, and all of those concerns have been relevant issues that new administration has identified and begun to work on, she added.
After the meeting, Thompson said the accusations of her being disrespectful were not accurate.
“I feel I’ve been very respectful of the individuals, but if they don’t feel I have been, I think that’s their problem,” she said. “(Respect) is a two-way street … and you have to earn respect, you can’t demand it.”
District 7 board member Ben Quiroz said he thought disrupting the board leadership at this time would be counterproductive, adding that Thompson has experience in the position while he, Hallmark and Dodd have only served on the board a little more than a year.
Herrera said his vote for Thompson as board president was based on keeping the hospital running.
Thomson was voted in as board president 4-3, getting voted in by Quiroz, Herrera and District 4 board member David Dunn. Dodd and District 2’s Mary Lou Anderson voted for Hallmark.
Dunn and Anderson remained quiet for most of the meeting, aside from Dunn making a motion for Hallmark to be named executive committee member. The board unanimously voted Hallmark to be the executive committee member.
The special meeting, which only included the two items, lasted about 20 minutes.
Quiroz also said he felt the disrespectful comments about one another shouldn’t have been made in public.
“I don’t think public display of contention is really where we need to be,” Quiroz said on Wednesday. “I don’t think public display of disagreeing is really very healthy so I really want to try to avoid that with moving forward. … We need to have constructive criticism about issues, not about others.”
Medical Center Health System President and CEO Rick Napper said Wednesday morning he sees things completely different than how some people saw the discussion Tuesday night.
“The one thing that really is very important to understand about boards and how they work is that boards have to have dialogue,” Napper said, adding that if a board never has conflict, they’re not really doing their job. “It’s how the board’s managed that’s important.”
While some people may have viewed the discussion as a negative, Napper said they were able to have a tough conversation while continuing to look out for the best interest of the organization.
“Yes, there was dialogue about pros and cons about the different people that were nominated. Yes, there was difference of opinion. Yes, there was a vote taken. Now the challenge as a group is to come together in the best interest of the hospital. And I think that will happen,” Napper said.
Whether the vote ended up in favor of Thompson or Hallmark, the CEO said he doesn’t think the board could have made a bad decision in this case.
“There was a third vote (in regular session) obviously for the chair of the finance committee. Mary (Thompson) and David (Dunn) and Don (Hallmark) all are valuable assets to that board and each one of them brings their individual talents and the vote was around what were their individual talents. I would’ve been pleased with however that vote went.”