Editor’s Note: Last week SRHS Watch broke down several pieces of fiction being propogated by the Board of Supervisors. This Monday brings us yet more fiction. Not wanting to be questioned on the contrivances, the BoS will be telling their story to only one media outlet, one they hope will serve as a mouthpiece: The Mississippi Press. (The above image is the masthead for the former Soviet propaganda newspaper Pravda, or “Truth”.)
The latest statement from the BoS is wide ranging and full of topics which require distillation and rebuttal. This week has already seen that from Sen. Brice Wiggins and SRHS trustee Scott Taylor. Over the coming days we will go point-by-point through the statment, today we address it generally.
The Board of Supervisors’ chorus is getting tiresome: “We have no control, we have no control, we have no control.”
There are at least three distinct areas where the Board of Supervisors exercises control over Singing River.
- Annual approval of the system’s budget
- Appointment of the Board of Trustees
- Co-signing the credit line or the power of the purse
The hospital is required by statue to submit a budget and receive approval from the BoS. The BoS has not approved a budget for Singing River for several years. John McKay has admitted that the supervisors have failed in this duty. He pleaded ignorance and that he “is not an attorney.” McKay is not, but he is sitting on the dais with one every week. In the corporate world, any attorney who allowed an organization to be out of compliance for such an interval would be shown the door.
The BoS also has the responsibility to appoint Trustees to oversee the hospital. This is probably the most important aspect where the BoS can influence and exert control of how SRHS is managed and governed. The trustees hire and fire administrators, doctors, execute contracts, and set expectations for hospital administration.
As a supervisor, you would want your appointee to be someone who could not only have a firm grasp on all aspects of the hospital’s operations, but also appreciate the relationship between the BoS and the BoT. You would want your appointee to be responsive and available to answer your concerns about how the hospital’s issues would affect the county and citizens. The appointee should be someone with whom the BoS should be able to easily negotiate with.
According to the release, the Board of Trustees are none of these things. The release states the trustees have taken the ball and gone home, refusing to cooperate with county. The supervisors now seek to file an ethics complaint against trustee Michael Tolleson, who was appointed and confimed by the supervisors. (This issue will be covered in more detail in a later post.)
Have relations between the trustees and supervisors soured to the point that no progress can be made? Is this more fiction from the BoS? We get a clue from trustee Scott Taylor’s blog:
Because we are owned by Jackson County, we sought to work with the BOS in coming up with this resolution. We sought their approval and endorsement. There were numerous meetings with supervisors and their lawyers. We were in constant contact with them advising of our progress and what we were considering. We asked for their input. Time after time we presented proposals to the BOS only to receive word from Mr. Guice that the county would not be on board, without any explanation or alternatives suggested. Months ago, Kevin Holland asked to attend a BOS meeting in open session to give a progress report and share information. He was told not to attend, and if he did, not to say anything. At that point it was pretty clear to me that our efforts to work with the BOS were futile. Early on I was hopeful that Mr. Guice and the accounting firm he hired would offer something useful. They did not.
[…T]he BOS could have been helpful in this process, but instead it repeatedly put up roadblocks. There were threats of ethics complaints and refusal to approve our budget if we did not commit to fund the plan at the lower level.
We now see that the BoS has followed through on threats of ethics complaints. The trustees and supervisors are at loggerheads and the loser will be the retirees.
Power of the Purse
The third area where the supervisors can exert control is the power of the purse. The BoS has co-signed several bond issues by Singing River in the last few years and at no time scrutinized the system’s financial health or debt service sustainability. At the same time, the BoS signed up (some of) the taxpayers of Jackson County for a five mill tax increase should Singing River default to Wall Street.
It was at points like these the BoS could have inserted some provisions for more access and control. A child asking his parents to finance a new bicycle might be met with certain stipulations: take out the garbage, keep up your grades, and we will help you buy the bike. The Board of Supervisors could have done much the same.
The opportunity presents itself again. Singing River could greatly benefit from a cash infusion and the BoS desires increased access and oversight. The two could enter into an agreement whereby the supervisors agree to provide a certain annual funding and Singing River agrees to submit to more BoS control. The pension plan could be fully restored, Singing River would not be at risk for bankruptcy, and the Board of Supervisors would immediately have the control it desires.