EDITORIAL: Voters can decide conflict

Whidbey General Hospital President Peter Borden went too far when he wrote a letter to Dr. Paul Zaveruha, asking Zaveruha to remove himself as a candidate for the hospital district board.

Zaveruha serves as Emergency Services director for the hospital, and as a surgeon practices at the hospital. Borden pointed out the possible conflict of interest if Zaveruha is elected to the hospital’s governing board, and went so far as to threaten that Zaveruha will lose his position as Emergency Services director if elected, and could also lose his “medical staff privileges and membership.”

In short, Borden threatened to fire Zaveruha if he doesn’t withdraw from the race. He is running against Amy Ayers for the position presently held by Borden, who chose not to run for re-election.

The threat was a bad idea, and its murky origins are suspect. The hospital district commissioners met in a secret, “executive” session to discuss an election issue that should have been entirely open to the public. After this mysterious session, Borden penned the letter to Zaveruha that is signed only by himself. Presumably he was writing for the board, but we don’t know what the other members are thinking because of the ill-advised closed session.

Although the board’s secretive discussion was about Zaveruha, he had no knowledge of the event until he received Borden’s letter. Commendably, he refused to withdraw from the race despite the threat to his livelihood.

Borden raises legitimate issues, but they’re campaign issues — not the fodder for secret board discussions. Dr. Zaveruha has extensive knowledge of hospital operations and no doubt his own ideas about how things should be run. In light of the hospital’s recent financial problems that have resulted in staff layoffs and other cutbacks, voters will want to hear what Zaveruha has to say.

Can Zaveruha not vote on certain issues and still be an effective hospital district commissioner? Voters need to know, and the doctor has until Tuesday, Nov. 4 to explain himself.

As for Borden and the hospital board, they have no right to interfere with the election process by threating a candidate. A public apology would be an appropriate way to end this matter.

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