Prodded by legislators, board plans ‘do-over’ on public hospital’s executive bonuses

Following an attorney general’s opinion, the Erlanger Health System board says it plans to hold a “do-over” meeting to discuss and vote again on $1.7 million in management bonuses, according to the Chattanooga TFP.

But local lawmakers said Friday that the gesture may not be enough to keep them from taking more drastic measures against the board — including asking certain politically appointed members to resign.

Board Chairman Donnie Hutcherson wrote to state lawmakers on Friday that, following Attorney General Herbert Slatery III’s opinion regarding the state’s open meetings law, “we believe it would be in the best interest of the public we serve to have an open discussion at the February 26 board meeting about each of the four resolutions presented in December.”

One resolution at the Dec. 4 meeting approved the bonuses for 99 top managers at the public hospital. The decision caused an uproar among the lawmakers, who were outraged that the board discussed the bonuses behind closed doors before the public vote.

Slatery’s opinion, requested by lawmakers and delivered Wednesday, said state law does not permit public hospital boards to discuss issues like compensation in secret.

Lawmaker-appointed hospital trustee Dr. Phyllis Miller said Sen. Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga, called her Thursday, the day after the AG opinion came out.

Miller said Gardenhire told her she had “committed an illegal act” and he wanted to give her the opportunity to step down before he and other members of the Hamilton County delegation formally asked her to do so.

…Gardenhire also told newly appointed trustee Henry Hoss that the delegation may ask trustees to step down, Hoss confirmed Friday. Hoss — whose very first board appearance was the controversial Dec. 4 meeting — said he still hoped to make peace with lawmakers and felt that re-doing the meeting was crucial to rebuild trust with the public.