News

Rhine’s officially out, search begins

Dr. Paul Zaveruha reads from a prepared statement following the Commissioner’s descision to appoint Tom Tomasino as Whidbey General Hospital’s interim superintendent. Fellow Commissioners Ron Wallin, left, and Dr. Roger Case, center, look on. - Jenny Manning/Whidbey News-Times
Dr. Paul Zaveruha reads from a prepared statement following the Commissioner’s descision to appoint Tom Tomasino as Whidbey General Hospital’s interim superintendent. Fellow Commissioners Ron Wallin, left, and Dr. Roger Case, center, look on.
— image credit: Jenny Manning/Whidbey News-Times

The three remaining Island County Public Hospital District commissioners voted unanimously Friday to accept Scott Rhine’s “separation agreement” as the hospital’s chief executive officer.

The special session formalized Rhine’s departure following an earlier executive session in which the issue was discussed. Rhine had planned to leave next March but the commissioners wanted him gone sooner.

Rhine will receive a $120,000 severance package, said Trish Rose, hospital spokesperson, on Tuesday, adding that the retirement portion of the package had not yet been setttled. The commissioners consulted legal counsel during a 15-minute executive session before Friday’s public meeting.

When the commissioners returned to the conference room from executive session, they were met by more than 40 curious hospital staff members.

Board member Gary Wallin explained that in order to approve either of the two resolutions at hand, all three members must vote in agreement to reach quorum. The board currently has two vacant seats.

“It has to be a unified vote to pass anything,” he said.

Previously the board had voted to postpone the appointment of a new board member by a 2-1 vote, prompting Carolyn Pape to question the validity of that vote.

Dr. Roger Case, another board member, explained that based on the legal advice the board received at the time of that vote, they believed that the it was legitimate. Since then, however, they have learned otherwise, he said.

“There’s no place for public question and answer at this session,” Case went on to tell the attendees.

“There’s a lot of complicated things going on,” Wallin added.

The commissioners then moved ahead to unanimously pass the resolution “to accept a separation agreement of Mr. Rhine.”

When asked why the board decided to make such a motion one month after Rhine announced his intention to retire in March, Wallin said that the board did not want a “lame duck appearance” by keeping a retiring hospital chief executive on staff.

Following the first resolution, the board unanimously passed a second, appointing Tom Tomasino, the current chief operating officer, as the interim CEO.

“These are tough times,” said Dr. Paul Zaveruha, board member. “This is the best choice for the hospital.”

“The board, community and the hospital wish to express their gratitude for (Rhine’s) long and dedicated devotion to the mission of Whidbey General Hospital. He served with integrity, compassion and a vision for healthcare excellence, his leadership will be missed,” Zaveruha read from a prepared statement.

Wallin said the board will will accept input from the administration, staff and community so that everyone can be involved in the process of finding a permanent CEO.

“We will not just put together a committee,” he said. “This is a chance and we’re going to go forward and improve.”

Some attendees appeared angry at the board’s process.

“While we’re employees here, we are also members of the community,” Gwen Parrik said.

Wallin responded that “select” staff members will participate in the search process along with administrative staff and community members.

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