Last minute meeting leaves number of questions

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 into 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 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.”

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.

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 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.”

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. 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 tonight.

This all comes right before an election Saturday for the seat of Board President and District 6 Board Member Mary 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 could not be reached after the meeting and did not respond to a phone call.