Stuck at an impasse, the board started to bicker.
Tuesday night at the Ector County Hospital District board of directors’ regular meeting, voting deadlocked during the scheduled appointment of board president during officer elections, leading to tense talk of Facebook posts, of ‘no respect,’ of ‘being treated like idiots’ — ultimately leading to not much except for vented feelings and a delayed appointment.
With one of seven board members absent Tuesday during the regular meeting at MCH in downtown Odessa, the vote for board chair knotted 3-3 when annual officer appointments hit the agenda, ultimately leading to stern tones, unsettled posture and shaking heads, until the board moved to delay the vote until a special meeting that could take place with all seven members present.
Current board chair Mary Thompson received three votes to remain in her position, while second-year board member Don Hallmark received three. Board member Richard Herrera was absent Tuesday, allowing for an even number of votes and the tie.
After a first tie in the voting, board members opened up their opinions in efforts to change the voting — bringing Hallmark to say that the position of board chair hadn’t shown a level of respect that he wanted, before Thompson harkened to name-calling in Facebook posts, which Hallmark said he could only surmise stemmed from last fall’s election season.
“I have no respect for someone that stoops to that level of using social media to degrade other board members,” Thompson said during the scruff.
“Well, Mary, if you want to get to that kind of squabble, I have no respect for people that will treat people on this board like they’re idiots,” Hallmark fired back.
Thompson has been on the board since 1990. Hallmark joined the board in 2017.
Bryn Dodd, who’s served since 2017, nominated Hallmark for board chair during the proceedings. Mary Lou Anderson, who’s been on since 2010, also voted for Hallmark.
Second-year board member Ben Quiroz voted for Thompson, as did David Dunn, who’s been on the board since 2006.
In discussion, Quiroz cited a “positive momentum” for the organization and said he felt the board should stick with what it has. Dunn said that he thought experience was needed for the board president. “It takes time. … It’s a learning process to be able to be a chair,” he said, turning to Hallmark.
Dodd vocally supported change. “There’s been several instances within this last year where I personally was disrespected by Ms. Thompson,” she said.
Anderson did not comment when invited during the board’s public discussion.
Ultimately, after a second vote led to the same result, MCH System chief legal counsel Ron Griffin, advised to the board that bylaws allowed for members to move to suspend the vote until a special meeting that could be attended by all seven members.
Griffin said he had studied the bylaws to find the board’s options in such a situation earlier Tuesday, and that he had even called other lawyers about it — cluing everyone in the room in that Griffin was either extremely thorough in his preparation to consider all outcomes in advance, or the way voting played out wasn’t really much of a surprise.
The special meeting to vote with all seven members will take place in June, the board said.
“I know what that special meeting will result in,” Hallmark said as the motion to plate the vote went through, seeming to imply that Herrera’s vote would go for Thompson. “I just think that we needed to have this discussion.”
“I do, too,” Thompson said, as the two seemed to agree for the first time in several minutes.
Elsewhere on the agenda, the board accepted reports from the finance committee, the joint conference committee and the audit committee, while also hearing a report from Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center and quarterly reports from MCH System president and CEO Rick Napper.
The board also approved a two-year agreement with CareerBuilder, and moved to send a plot of land owned by the system toward being auctioned by Ector County.
But sparks may as well have flown like no other time during the officer appointment.
After the vote for board president was suspended, Dunn was unanimously named board vice president. For executive committee member, who would get with the president and vice president for rare emergency meetings in times when the rest of the board couldn’t, Quiroz proposed that, of Thompson and Hallmark, the one who isn’t voted president could take that spot, and the ensuing motion proposing that passed.
Eventually, the board moved on.
“I think it’s very healthy to get all these feelings and emotions out in the open,” Thompson said after the meeting adjourned. “We need to have healthy dialogues. There has just been an undercurrent since the board elections (in the fall) — a very serious undercurrent.”
Hallmark also stood by his notion that it was good for the board members to have that conversation and put it behind them.
“It’s not comfortable having this kind of a conversation in public,” Hallmark said. “It’s not meant to be a public kind of conversation. But in our situation, we have to have it.
“It went fine. Everybody was OK. We all acted professional and did what we’re supposed to do.”
Property to auction
In other business, the board reviewed an offer to sell about 38 acres in a residential neighborhood outside city limits for $40,500, but the board ultimately moved to decline the offer and move in another direction.
Hallmark, who comes to the board from a background in real estate, presented the offer to the board but suggested the board instead try sending the property to auction through Ector County.
Hallmark said the property failed to sell at auction in 2004 and has been for sale since.
The board agreed to try selling it at auction again.
“This is not 2004,” Hallmark said after the meeting. “The way I see it and looked at it, and I spent some time with it today, it’s very sellable.”
Early in the meeting, MCH officials presented a check for $8,278 to CASA of the Permian Basin, in funds raised during nursing week.
During that week in May, different departments in the hospital put together gift baskets that were displayed and then raffled off on campus at MCH.
It was the second year the departments had done the gift baskets raffle, MCH chief nursing officer Chad Dunavan said, and the fundraiser raised twice as much money it did as last year, he said.
“It was really a hospital-wide thing,” Dunavan said.
“It turned out to be really pretty awesome this year.”