Thompson seat on the line; Dodd may resign

While one Ector County Hospital District board member battles for her seat another says she may resign and a third acknowledges the board met in executive session for reasons not outlined in their agenda as required by law.

The Ector County Hospital District Board met in executive session under the pretense of discussing legal matters Thursday evening, but at least one board member said they didn’t discuss any legal matters, an apparent violation of the open meetings act.

Board members went to executive session a little before 6:30, the announced time of the meeting, and adjourned the meeting without taking any action about an hour-and-a-half later. Board members left one by one, but none of them would comment directly after the meeting aside from District 5 Board Member Don Hallmark.

“What was talked about was all the rumors that are out there,” Hallmark said. “There’s no truth to any of them, it’s just all crazy rumors.”

Board member Bryn Dodd said later Thursday night in a prepared statement she asked for the meeting but pointed to Board President Mary Thompson and CEO Rick Napper as the ones who formed and posted the meeting agenda, which said the executive session was for “legal matters.”

Dodd’s statement indicated she called the meeting to address rumors and concerns regarding the hospital expressed by the community and personnel issues.

“Nothing was accomplished due to the board being unable to communicate as professionals,” Dodd wrote. “I left the meeting early as I felt disrespected and was verbally attacked by some of the other board members.”

Dodd said Thompson did not maintain control over the meeting. She added that she thought MCH was a great hospital with excellent employees and that these issues shouldn’t reflect negatively on MCH or its staff.

Thompson and Napper were the ones who came up with the agenda, Dodd later added, and also said she may resign from her position.

This all comes right before an election Saturday for the seat of Board President and District 6 Board Member Thompson, who is being challenged by Wallace Dunn.

“I think the whole purpose of this meeting has exemplified why my opponent has to go,” Dunn said. “She’s the president of the board, she’s hiding things from the public?…That should have been an open meeting.”

Dunn also said Thompson has known about these rumors for more than a month now, before the previous board meeting. Thompson did not respond to a phone call seeking comment for this story.

During the meeting, Hallmark said they went over each rumor they had heard about, and said that each one was talked about and found to be untrue.

“Ben Quiroz was an ass,” Hallmark added, referring to the District 7 board member.

One rumor involves the status of Medical Center Hospital CEO Rick Napper, whose house at 9 Durham St., was put on the market four days ago. An Odessa American reporter and a CBS7 reporter repeatedly asked questions regarding the sale of his house and whether he was resigning, but he declined to comment.

Hallmark said he was aware Napper’s house was on the market, but said they didn’t discuss the possibility of Napper resigning at all during the meeting.

“I don’t believe Rick’s resigning,” Hallmark said. “He wouldn’t have stayed around for all this stupid rumor crap that’s going on…I’m sure it’s not gonna happen.”

Hallmark later said called a part of the hospital board dysfunctional.

“Absolutely a part of the board is dysfunctional,” he said. “If people don’t step up to make a change, then absolutely it’s never gonna get better. After today, it’s just insanity sometimes.”

Hallmark said there were no lawsuits discussed during the meeting, despite the stated purpose of the meeting being to discuss legal matters. Kelley Shannon, executive director of the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas, said rumors don’t qualify as legal matters.

“That’s not a reason for an executive session,” Shannon said. “If there’s reason to believe they really weren’t talking about that reason it can be challenged in court or by a prosecutor.”

Shannon said after the meeting took place that it’s hard to say whether the board violated the law, as they may have discussed personnel matters, which would fall under executive session, but it’s hard to know without knowing what they discussed.

“The main thing is these boards and commissions need to remember to follow the Open Meetings Act,” Shannon said. “It’s there for a reason, it’s the law.”

The Ector County Hospital District Board has also not responded to several freedom of information requests submitted by the OA or by CBS7 in the past two weeks. The OA is also submitting a public information request for recorded minutes of the Thursday meeting. MCH Spokeswoman Susan Thorton also said she wasn’t aware of what the meeting was for, and added that many employees weren’t even aware there was a meeting.