Hospital board retakes vote that violated OPMA

The WhidbeyHealth Board of Commissioners voted for and appointed Gregory M. Richardson.

Hospital commissioners redid a vote and subsequent appointment of their new board colleague to bring the process into alignment with the Open Public Meetings Act.

Meanwhile, the hospital board is continuing its search for a permanent CEO after an offer wasn’t accepted “within the established time frame,” according to a statement from WhidbeyHealth.

During a Thursday afternoon meeting, the remaining members of the WhidbeyHealth Board of Commissioners executed two motions to vote for and appoint Gregory M. Richardson. Richardson will replace Commissioner Nancy Fey, who resigned effective Sept. 30.

Board members voted publicly with a show of hands for Richardson, unanimously approving his appointment.

During the last board meeting, commissioners first cast anonymous written ballots, which are not allowed under the Open Public Meetings Act, according to ​​information from Morgan Damerow, assistant attorney general for open government. They then went into executive session, where the members apparently decided to choose Richardson, which is another violation of the law.

The board then left the executive session and formally voted on the appointment.

Fey took part in the vote on that occasion in violation of RCW 42.12.070, which states that a new appointment may not be finalized until the effective date of resignation of the outgoing elected official.

“I do want to apologize to the citizens and the board for the election that we had,” Wallin said prior to the most recent vote. “Normally I would run it by our in-house counsel, but we don’t have one right now.”

Richardson will be sworn in before the next board meeting. Richardson, a retired lieutenant colonel in the Air Force, was formerly a partner with a human resources consulting firm, where he specialized in working with healthcare organizations. He has lived in Clinton since 2014.

Interim CEO Mike Layfield will continue in the job until a permanent successor can be found. The board made an offer to a prospective candidate recommended by the hospital district’s management team, HealthTechS3, but it didn’t work out, according to the hospital. HealthTechS3 will continue the search.

The board fired CEO Ron Telles in February amidst revelations about the hospital’s financial situation. Board members then chose to contract with HealthTechS3 to provide management services for the public hospital district. Under the contract, HealthTechS3 provided Layfield as interim CEO and is conducting a search for a new top official.