Opinion

Hospital board’s lack of contrition is disappointing | Opinion

Whidbey General Hospital commissioners faced a tough decision Monday when they voted to sell undeveloped property in Bayview.

The property was purchased by a past board years ago at a highly inflated price, without an appraisal first being done.

Bought for $2 million in 2008, the property is now valued at $595,000.

The decision to sell the land is the right one. But the apparent lack of contrition shown by the current board is disappointing.

Board President Anne Tarrant simply remarked that the decision to buy the property was made by a past board, and the purchase price was a reflection of the market at the time.

Yes, the choice was made by a past board, and yes, property values peaked in 2007-08, but the fact remains — no appraisal was done prior to buying the land. That’s called due diligence.

Taxpayer money was spent to buy the property, and the hospital board represents the taxpayers. Some measure of remorse, any indication that there’s been a lesson learned — that’s a reasonable expectation.

An apology from the current board, along with a promise to be better stewards of taxpayer money would help to restore some of the trust that was lost in this process.

Washington laws currently require public agencies to get three appraisals when selling property, but they are not required to obtain even one when purchasing property.

State Rep. Norma Smith, R-Clinton, said the existing laws warrant consideration and possible legislative action.  It would be a show of good faith for the hospital district — and, for that matter, all other government bodies in Island County — to ensure their policies require an appraisal before purchasing property.

Voters in the hospital district recently entrusted the hospital with $50 million for a much-needed expansion.

Such a show of faith by the voters deserves an equal show of good faith by the hospital board.

Hopefully, it’s coming sooner rather than never.

 

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