Medical Center Health System President and CEO Rick Napper is making his exit from Odessa and his health care career sooner than expected.
Napper announced that June 14 would be his last day serving in his role, about three months earlier than his previously stated retirement date of Sept. 15, during an Ector County Hospital District Board meeting Tuesday.
Napper said he came to MCH in December 2017 with the intent of improving the organization, building credibility and expanding its reputation.
“I cannot stay if I violate any of those things, and I feel that when the confidence of the employees no longer rests in their CEO, then it is time for that CEO to move on,” Napper said. “It is time for Rick Napper to leave health care altogether.”
He plans to leave Odessa that same day and move with his wife to their new home in Kentucky.
In a prepared statement released in May, Napper said he decided to retire “after considering ongoing challenges of healthcare and concern for the impact that it may have on (his) health.”
His decision to retire came shortly after a number of Freedom of Information Act requests were made by the Odessa American and CBS7 following several weeks of personal time off the CEO took following an April board meeting.
Around the same, time Vice President of Provider and Community Relations Tracy Green’s employment ended. It remains unclear whether she was fired or quit and FOI requests submitted to answer those questions are being fought by an Austin law firm hired by the health system.
In the attorney’s request to the Attorney General for the information to be exempt from disclosure, the law firm argued some of the information was “highly intimate or embarrassing.” Another request stated, “…the District received a report of an alleged violation of a law or District policy that is within the purview of the District’s enforcement authority,” and since the informer’s identity is not known to the requester, the information should be withheld.
An external search process will begin to fill the CEO position and it is unconfirmed at this time whether Napper will receive any type of MCH retirement or financial package.
“We’re getting started in a search for a new CEO and we have to make decisions
on what’s going to happen in the interim and how that goes forward,” newly elected MCH ECHD Board President Don Hallmark said. “We’ll have all of those answers at least by the end of the week.”
Napper’s announcement Tuesday followed the hospital board’s annual officer appointments, and not all board members appeared satisfied with the results.
Hallmark and District 7 board member Ben Quiroz were nominated for board president position and Hallmark received the majority of the votes. District 3’s Richard Herrera and Quiroz were the only two board members to not vote for Hallmark.
Quiroz had posted on Facebook the day before the vote took place about his interest in chairing the board of directors. His pitch to convince the board to lend him their votes centered on his stated belief that he could use his board experience and health care knowledge to help carry the organization through its transition in finding a new CEO.
“We want the best person for the job and not the one that is the most convenient,” Quiroz said.
During Hallmark’s short statement to the board prior to the vote, he briefly touched on addressing issues with communication, but remained vague.
“I’m talking about just having a common communication inside the board that’s more informative since it’s been limited,” Hallmark said in a phone interview. “We need to be able to have a discussion and everyone be informed about what we’re talking about every time.”
Quiroz interjected Hallmark’s message to the board to ask “what would your vision be, Don, to move forward, what is your plan?”
District 6 board member Wallace Dunn quickly suggested a vote.
“He started to answer the question and I just didn’t think it was appropriate, it wasn’t the time or place to have that conversation,” he said.
In just 30 seconds the conversation had closed, votes were cast and Hallmark was appointed as the new president of the board. The title was previously held by Mary Thompson, former District 6 board member.
An unprofessional exchange reportedly occurred after the meeting adjourned. District 6’s Dunn said he overheard Quiroz say a “rude remark” to an audience member but would not give any further details.
Quiroz said he would rather not comment about that when asked if he spoke with any audience members after the meeting.
Odessa resident Gloria Apolinario made a public Facebook post following the meeting stating “Ben Quiroz was upset for losing the presidency to Don Hallmark. He put his face in front of my face and blamed me for the change in the board. …” Apolinario could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Hallmark said he witnessed Quiroz state an intent to resign, but the District 7 board member later retracted his statement. The OA previously reported that District 1’s Bryn Dodd also threatened to resign from her position last month after she said she was disrespected and verbally attacked by some of the other board members during executive session.
Quiroz said he did not speak to Hallmark or Dunn after the meeting and clarified on Wednesday that he is not considering resigning. Quiroz said many of the board members are passionate about their position, which he said even led to threats of his arrest from Hallmark after adjournment.
“He had made some threats and I was just taken aback by that,” Quiroz said.
Hallmark denied the claim and said although he did speak with Quiroz, no threats were issued.
Hallmark said the events that occurred after the meeting would not have an impact on how the newly restructured board works as a team.
“The board as a whole is in good shape,” he said.
Other officer elections resulted in District 1’s Bryn Dodd for vice president and District 2’s Mary Lou Anderson for executive committee member. Jan Ramos was reappointed as the ECHD board secretary.
IN OTHER BUSINESS
The board took the following action:
- District 4 board member David Dunn and District 2 board member Mary Lou Anderson took an oath of office.
- Approved a capital expenditure request for Sorin Heart/Lung Bypass System and two Cincinnati Sub-Zero Hemotherm units at a total cost of $187,100.