Bigfork Valley Hospital holds Community Comments meeting

by Rebecca J. Passeri

The Bigfork Valley Community Comments meeting was held in the main conference room of the hospital on May 15, beginning at 5 p.m. There were about 21 people present at the meeting. Five of them were District Board members Shirley Sorrentino, Joel Karels, Shelly Mai, Carol Mills, and Kenny Porter who arrived a little after the meeting started. There were some hospital employees present, well as area district residents.

Committee Chair Karels opened the meeting by welcoming everyone and saying, “Again, as always, the board members that are here cannot act on any matters at this meeting. We can only act as a board at a board meeting. The closed meeting that was last night [Wednesday, May 14] is still closed, so we cannot discuss anything that ook place at the meeting last night. There may be an update on that at next week’s board meeting. [Scheduled for Tuesday, May 20] So with that, does anybody want to start up?”

Marcell resident Jim Rossbach was the first to speak. “I’m very curious about the action that was taken at the last board meeting [held April 28. The article about this meeting appeared in the May 8 edition of the Western Itasca Review, Vol. 114, Number 43] when you authorized the expenditure of $250,000 for – as I call it – a tech room and generator.”

Karels: There was two different items there.

Rossbach: I don’t think it was two different items.

Karels: I think the generator was $250,000, and I forget what the tech room was.

Rossbach: Well, whatever was $250,000. I want to know how you are going to handle that, seeing that you didn’t bid it.

Karels: Well, I assume it’s going to come out of operations.

Rossbach: It can’t. You can not spend $250,000 without bidding.

Karels: Well, if it’s a change order to the project –

Rossbach: It’s not a change order. It was an addition.

Karels: Yes, but that is a change order.

Rossbach: No, it isn’t a change order. You read the Attorney General’s opinion from May 8, 2002, it’s very specific. So I would like to let it be known that they need to bid that.

Mills: They are hooking onto Zeigler’s current system, aren’t they, Joel?

Karels: No. From what I understand with the generator is – the current generator that we have right now is a 500kw, and that runs the main part of the building here, but it’s not big enough to handle the new part or the Villa. There is no back up generation in the Villa. So it was brought to the board to get a 300kw generator and I guess the board felt that for the extra $70,000 they will go with the 500. It will not be tied into the existing system so it will not be a redundant. It will be a separate stand-alone system there. So you are saying that it needed to be on a bid? For anything over $100,000?

Rossbach: I don’t know what the population of the hospital district is, but I am assuming that it is over 2,500?

Karels: The population of the hospital district? I’m sure it is.

Rossbach. Yes. Because if it is under 2,500, then anything over $35,000 has to be bid out.

Karels: I would imagine that the population is probably around 10,000.

One of the residents who wishes to remain anonymous [will be referred to as Resident #1] asked Karels if they could discuss the generator further. “First of all, I don’t think that you authorized the purchase of a generator, I think you authorized the ability to move the generator forward, and then to move forward with purchasing methodology. But I don’t think you bought a generator, from what I understand. So, that’s part one. Part two is, since when are members of the board that knowledgeable that they can just snap their fingers and decide on the size of a generator?

Sorrentino: We didn’t.

Bigfork resident Gene Rajala said, “I have a comment on that. I was at the meeting. Leo [Plant Services Manager Leo Kern] brought up the 300kw generator at $170,000. And it was discussed that it would handle this project and another one similar to it because this uses only about 40kw. So it was discussed back and forth at the board meeting and somebody decided maybe they would be putting on a couple more additions and it might be a better buy to buy a 500kw – which actually isn’t $70,000 more, it’s $80,000 more. At the same time, they were talking about the present generator. They have a contract with Ziegler – which is a Caterpillar dealer that supplied it – and if I heard right, they are paying $1,700 a month for the generator that they have now. That seems to be a REALLY high price for a service contract, in my estimation.

Resident #1: But you don’t know that it’s $1,700.

Rajala: Well, that’s what Leo said at the meeting.

Resident #1 asked what size the existing generator is and was told 500kw. He said: So he proposed a 300 and members of the board felt that it should be bigger. Why didn’t they decide on 700kw?

Rajala: Well, here’s what happened. He [Kern] came in and said, “They are going to pour cement tomorrow and if we don’t have this generator already spoken for, we aren’t going to have the facility to hook in.” It seemed to me that if they were planning to put it in – no matter if they were going to pour cement or not – they could have put the conduit under the cement and had it there if they needed it. And if they DIDN’T need it, it’s not going to cost much to put it in there. What it is is a panic situation. When you come in with day for a demand for it, and you have to buy it that day – they sent him out and he called Zeigler. He came back in 10 minutes and said, “We can get a really good buy on a 500kw for $250,000, which was $80,000 more than the one they wanted to start with. To me, that is not the way you should be doing business, so you can have an idea what your expenditures are.

Resident #1: I agree. Will this new proposed generator cover the operation if the old generator that’s existing for any reason fails or isn’t operational?

Rajala: Part of the service contract is that Zeigler is obligated to bring a portable generator here and put it in on very short notice, if this one fails.

Resident #1: But the reality is, if you need a generator and that one isn’t operational, you are not going to have the time and efficient operation to bring in another generator from say Hibbing or Mt. Iron. So you are looking at about a four-hour or six-hour turn around.

Rajala: That’s exactly right.

Resident #1: So what do the people do for six hours?

Rajala: Well, they probably do the same thing when they have hurricanes and tornadoes and everything else around the country.

Karels: They think the generator is big enough to handle the current building and the new addition.

Porter arrived at this point, apologizing for being late. He said that he thought the meeting was going to be in the other conference room and was waiting there.

Rajala: What I’m saying is I hate them to be in a panic situation and in 15 minutes go from one thing to another and into a third thing, when they don’t have any background information. That’s why I said they should have a project manager over here, to start with, to look after what’s going on on a $5 million project. It looks to me that you don’t have anybody over there that knows what’s going on from day to day because your project manager is the prime contractor and you are looking to Leo to look after all kinds of things that I don’t think he’s experienced enough in that field. That’s my opinion.

Resident #1: My concern is that you are authorizing $250,000 in expenditure and you don’t know whether the size is adequate, whether the size should be bigger, whether the smaller size that Leo talked about will be sufficient, whether there is going to be transfer capability to cover the one that’s existing. I mean, I didn’t hear that discussion or see it written down in any papers or anything. So to me the question becomes why in the world are we buying that kind of thing and – as a taxpayer – that bothers me a little bit because I see it go on way too often. And I don’t see the kinds of jurisdictional back up that you need. So, I think that really – and I recognize that the board is under the gun to do things at certain times – but in terms of putting in whatever they need underground, that could be done very quickly, very easily. They don’t need to know whether it’s a 300, 500, 600 or any of that. You put one size conduit in and you are done. We’ve done many, many jobs like that. So it irritates me a little bit that when the board was so intent on discussing hammers and a screwdriver and a few things like that – Mickey Mouse® tools – and all the sudden they can authorize hundreds of dollars of generators and nobody says a word about it, other than, “Yup. Here we go. Let’s go buy it because we might need it.”

Porter: For burying that stuff, you have to also know what your load capacity is going to be for the type of conduit that you are going to bury, right?

Resident #1: No. You take a larger conduit size and put the conduit in the ground and you pull the cable later on. You don’t need to put the cable in when you start.

Mai: They weren’t going to put the cable in, anyway. They were putting the conduit in.

Resident #1: Sure. And that was an easy enough thing to do. Just go up one size if you’re concerned about the potential of going from 300 to 500 to 700 – whatever it is.

Mai: Am I not correct in saying that they weren’t putting the generator in right away. They were pouring the concrete and they needed to get the conduit in before they poured. So actually, that is where we are at. We are at that point. I don’t know if we have actually purchased it or not.

Karels: The board authorized the purchase of a 500kw for $259,000.

Resident #1: So that WILL be bid, probably, Joel?

Porter: It would have to be bid. Anything over $24,000 has to be bid.

Resident #1: So are you going to authorize Leo or whoever to look at it and come up with the a size that you really need? Or have you already made the decision on the board level that it should be 500kw?

Mills: I think it could go back on the agenda. We are meeting Tuesday.

Karels: The motion was to purchase the 500kw for $259,000. It was proposed for the 300kw and then the board felt that it should be bigger, for some reason.

Porter: My understanding of it was the one that they were going to put in was enough to cover what we had. And if anything more needed to be pulled off from it, it wouldn’t be available from that size. Right?

Karels: No. The 300 kw that they proposed would operate the Villa, do Aspen Circle and at least one more Aspen Circle. That’s what he told us at the meeting.

Porter: OK. I will have to relook at that.

Resident #1 asked Karels if he knew if there are dual feeds into the hospital from Minnesota Power or North Itasca Electric Cooperative. Karels said not from North Itasca and he wasn’t certain about Minnesota Power. He thought perhaps there must be. Someone indicated that it all tied off from one.

Resident #1: So if you’ve got one feeder coming in here, and if that is actually correct, then why wouldn’t things like that be looked at prior to spending $250,000. Minnesota Power would be in a position to put in multiple feeds so that the hospital HAS redundancy, and there is no need for the $250,000. Then the smaller one would have been enough.

Karels: But the transmission line goes out – it doesn’t matter how many feeds Minnesota Power has in here – we are dark. If that’s the case, we have a generator and we would be able to operate.

Mai: Emergency services. The essentials. I don’t see any reason why we couldn’t ask to have it put on the agenda to revisit it.

Sorrentino: Wasn’t there a time limit involved there, somehow?

Karels: Well, there was a time limit on – they had to pour concrete at the end of that week so they needed to know if we were going to put it in and know what size we were going to put in to be able to do whatever they were going to do underground.

Sorrentino: Right.

Mills: So they put the big conduit in.

Karels: That’s what the board’s wishes were. Mills agreed.

Porter: We will have to revisit that.

Mai: We DO need to find out whether it needs to be bid or not. Karels and Mills agreed.

Karels: That’s what I’ve got in my notes here, and that’s what we will discuss coming up and what the bidding process is going to be and how we are going to do that. He thanked Rossbach for bringing it up.

Karels moved the meeting on by asking for a new topic.

Resident #1: What is the status of the Concerned Citizens of Bigfork Valley – or whatever that group name is – that some of you created and belong to.

Marcell resident Jack Hillstrom asked, “What is the status?”

Resident #1: Yes. Is it any kind of legitimate, legal entity?

Hillstrom indicated that it was not.

Resident #1: So you don’t represent everybody. You are just representing some people.

Hillstrom: Correct.

Resident #1: Ok. So if there were legal challenges to that group, who would be the one that wants to take the legal challenges?

Hillstrom: I’m the spokesperson.

Resident #1: So it would be you, Jack?

Hillstrom: Probably.

Resident #1: I have a question that concerns me a great deal. I know of some people that have told me point blank that they have not gone to this hospital again because of things that have been brought up about issues that you folks have brought up. They have now transferred to other hospitals. So my question is, are there other people that have talked with potential customers and found that – or potential patients – or X-Y-Z customers – they might be going to some other hospital because of these issues, and is that any kind of issue that needs to be talked out and resolved? Because it appears to me that what you are doing with some of these challenges never getting resolved, nobody is – or a lot of people don’t seem to know what the actual challenges are and you are running customers away, which is degrading some financial viability of the hospital. And I want to know when we are going to find out how this can move forward in a way that we can resolve it and give people the comfort and the idea that this is one of the absolutely finest hospitals in the country and I am assuming that you all support the hospital and that you want to see the hospital succeed and do well. Is that a valid assumption?

Hillstrom: The last question is correct.

Resident #1: So you do want to see the hospital do well.

Hillstrom: Succeed. Yes.

Resident #1: So if there are customers and patients that are saying, “I don’t know if I want to go to that hospital because there is so much turmoil up there.” I don’t know if I am the only one that has talked with people that have said that or if there are others that have spoken to board members or others. If that’s the case, how can we resolve this issue so that these people have the comfort and the understanding that this IS one of the best hospitals in the country? That they are second to none?

Karels: I have had conversations with folks.

Hillstrom: I think we are getting to the end.

Resident #1: When you get to the end, I don’t know what that means [Hillstrom inserted: And I don’t know either] because the end can mean that you still have consternation with potential patients. They may look at it and say – whatever the end is, and I don’t know what you even mean by “the end” but I think there are issues that are not going to get resolved overnight. So I think there is an understanding of these things that have to be talked out or figured out or worked out. I just need to know how this is being planned to occur.

Hillstrom: I would like to know that, too, because we CAN’T talk them out. We’re not permitted to talk at meetings. We don’t get answers to our questions. So we are just going to keep talking until we get the answers.

Resident #1: I don’t – I’m not going to say that you don’t, Jack – but I don’t believe that there are issues that haven’t been answered or are not in progress of being answered.

Hillstrom: Yes, there are. Your wife knows the answers.

Another area resident [Resident #2] said, “That’s bogus.”

Hospital district resident Nanci Zeine asked, “ Can you be specific on exactly what the questions are?

Hillstrom: I didn’t bring my list with me. It’s very long.

Zeine: Can you just give some examples of, “We want to know if this happened,” “We want to know if – whatever.” Can you give a specific? What are you looking for? This has been going on for over a year.

Hillstrom: Yes.

Zeine: It’s ridiculous.

Hillstrom said that he could drive to his home and get the list, if the meeting would still be in session when he got back. He indicated that it would take him about a half an hour, round trip, to do so.

Zeine: I would like to hear it.

Resident #2: I would, too. Because I think it’s bogus.

Zeine: It just seems that I think all of us are kind of at a standstill.

Hillstrom: I don’t think we are at a standstill.

Zeine: Well, nobody is going anywhere!

Hillstrom: There was a closed meeting yesterday. There’s going to be closed meeting next Tuesday. And from that meeting, I think hopefully, there is going to a big portion of this resolved. And if there’s not, then our drumbeat continues.

Mills: What does “resolving” mean to you?

Hillstrom: Resolving means Dan Odegaard’s situation.

Mills: Dan’s gone.

Hillstrom: What?

Mills: In your mind, Dan is gone?

Hillstrom: No. He’s not gone. He’s here.

Mills: I mean you want him gone?

Hillstrom: I want it resolved. I don’t think he was honest and forthright about the way he took jobs as the CEO.

Resident #2: Yah, but that was very recent. The whole issue and consternation was a whole year ago. This is just something – this is NEW ammunition for you.

Hillstrom: OK. But Mr. Odegaard is the one that refuses to answer my questions.

Resident #2: That’s not true.

Hillstrom: That’s not true?

Resident #2: No! I sat at the meeting – I know just from watching what went on at the last meeting when I sat next to you when the financial statement was put on the screen for everybody to see and the condition of the hospital. The only notes you took was when anything you felt was potentially harmful to the hospital. Anytime there were accolades to what a good job was done, you never took any notes.

Bigfork Valley Digital Media Specialist Kyle Hedlund said, “Or clapped. National awards. Your group never celebrates with us.”

Resident #2: No. You are never interested in MY opinion – not interested in the good side of anything that happens at the hospital. You are only looking for somewhere to put a knife in. And that’s why I think this whole thing is – your group is bogus.

Hillstrom: Well I certainly disagree with –

‘s my opinion. And it’s an educated opinion.

Resident #1: Would it be unreasonable, Jack, to ask you to go and get whatever list that you need?

Hillstrom: How long will you be here?

Zeine: We will be here until you get back. If you’re going to make the trip, we’re not going to leave. If you are going to make that trip, that’s disrespectful if we close the meeting.

Hillstrom: Mr. Chair?

Zeine asked Karels, “Can we do that?”

Karels: If that’s what you want. We can stay here as long we need to.

Zeine: Everybody should have the say, though, because we would have to wait.

Karels: Well, there is next months’ meeting as well. For the convenience of everybody here, I don’t know if they want to stay.

They asked how many would be willing to stay and several people raised their hands. When the question was presented who did not wish to do so, Mai and Bigfork Valley Executive Director of Finance Kristin Lokken raised their hands. Mai said it was because she had a 40-minute drive home. Lokken said, “I just don’t see the value in it.

Zeine: Well, I would like to see specifics. I mean, if he’s going to give us specifics and say, “This is what I am looking for” and “This is what I am accusing so-and-so of.” I would like to know what they are. We keep asking and all we keep getting is answers of, “I’m not getting any answers to the questions.” And then we get all these negative reports and it’s just very accusatory.

Lokken: But the problem is, no matter what the answer is, it’s not going to be the correct answer because sometimes you get an answer and it does not support your – and I hesitate to say “agenda”– but what you think you are going to think or see, or what you WANT to find, then I will just say, “I didn’t get an answer for it.” I mean, I think that’s why – I’m sorry – out of respect – I am here to answer your questions, so I would hate for Jack to leave because if he has some financial questions for me, I would be happy to answer them.

Karels: Maybe we can do that at June’s meeting.

Hillstrom: If you are going to have a meeting in June, I would be happy to bring it.

Hedlund: I have a question [speaking to Hillstrom]. How many documents and pages has the Concerned Citizens Group received via data request?

Hillstrom: You probably know better than I do.

Hedlund: It’s over 2,000. And you are saying that your questions haven’t been answered?

Hillstrom: That’s correct. Very absolutely correct.

Resident #2: It means they haven’t been answered the way he would LIKE them to be answered. When you are looking for something and it doesn’t come up.

Rossbach: No, that isn’t what he means.

Hillstrom: That is not what I mean. You and I totally disagree. [Speaking to Resident #2] You know that and I know that.

Resident #2: But when you have that many documents and it’s been stated as an answer to your question, and yet it doesn’t tell you the negative things you want to hear, then you want to dig a little deeper. And that’s the situation. And that’s the truth.

Hillstrom: Well that IS the truth. When I find something, I keep digging until I find an answer.

Resident #2: You haven’t found anything, that’s your problem. You’re unhappy about that.

Hillstrom: No, I’m not.

Resident #2: Oh, yah.

Karels: Well, it kind of sounded like, from Jack’s earlier comment, whatever the outcome is next week, it may be a non-issue.

Marcell resident John Nathe said, “You could resolve the answer to the questions that we are talking about very easily by having the CEO here, because he’s never here to answer the questions. He’s got his surrogates and the surrogates doesn’t always know the ultimate answer that we are looking for. So if he were here, then we would find the answers.

Karels: I know you guys have said that you haven’t been able to meet with Dan and I have talked to him numerous times and he said, “All they need to do is call and make an appointment.” There was an email sent out to all of the directors very recently, having to do with the International Falls issue, that stated that if any of the directors or any of their constituents wanted to come in and talk to him, they would be welcome. Maybe your director didn’t forward that on to you. I don’t know.

Hillstrom: My director did not. But Joel, just so everybody knows, I have attempted to talk to him.

Mills: With a tape recorder and another person.

Hillstrom: I have done that, yes. But that wasn’t the major problem. He will not talk about six different subjects. He excludes them.

Karels: When was the last time you talked to him, Jack?

Hillstrom: It has been a long time, Joel. You told me you were going to arrange it, twice. You haven’t.

Mills: Did you talk to him one-on-one, alone, without another person.

Hillstrom: No I won’t. Not any more.

Mills: And you never did. From the beginning.

Hillstrom: Yes, I did.

Mills: Without a tape recorder?

Hillstrom: Yes, I did.

Mills: One on one.

Hillstrom: Yes.

Mills: And where was that?

Hillstrom: It was in the hallway because we were trying to go to his office. We got stopped and he had to go elsewhere.

Mills: So it wasn’t a meeting in his office.

Hillstrom: No. We tried to do that.

Resident #1: Jack, isn’t it correct that there were three meetings that were set up and that you didn’t show up for any of those three meetings?

Hillstrom: No. That’s not true. That’s what your wife thinks.

Resident #1: Well, I don’t know where she is or I would ask her point-blank. But I am very sure that they had set up meetings with you and that you didn’t show up to the meetings.

Hillstrom: There was one meeting that she set up that she really expected me to be there, but not the other two. After she wrote an email to me saying I that was late, or something like that, I said that we didn’t establish that we were even going to have a meeting because he didn’t respond correctly. We had to have rules, apparently, and the rules were that we couldn’t talk about those specific subjects. So I stayed home.

Zeine: What are the specific subjects?

Hillstrom: Again, I have those in that list.

Zeine: You don’t know any of them?

Karels: He will bring them next month.

Rajala had a question. “Have you decided to have an attorney to represent you in regards to the contract or the employee agreement that you have signed with Mr. Odegaard?” he asked.

Mills: That’s Tuesday.

Karels: That’s not public knowledge whether we have or haven’t.

Rajala: Ok. Well, I don’t think that he dealt with you in good faith, in my opinion. You signed a contract with him for a five-year period of time, and five days later it is announced that he has taken a full-time job at International Falls, without your knowledge, apparently. Was anybody on the board aware that he was negotiating for another job at the time that you signed the contract with him?

Karels: Nope.

Rajala: Then you give him a $50,500 signing bonus – or whatever you want to call it. I think you should have that contract renewed and nullified, if you can. And I think you should demand for your $50,500 back because I think he was negotiating in bad faith. When you negotiate a contract with somebody, he should be up front with you. I can’t image that anybody would do anything like that. It’s just beyond my comprehension.

Karels: Well, we wouldn’t have made the offer that we did if we had known that he was dealing with somebody else.

Resident #1: Gene, you weren’t in the room when these negotiations were going on. I don’t know if anybody but the board members were there. [Rajala interjected: No, I wasn’t there.] I am not casting doubt on what you are saying to some extent, but I am to another extent. I’m disgusted with this whole assassination attempt on somebody. You’re – the performance of this hospital has been very, very good.

Rajala: We’re not talking about that.

Resident #1: Yes, we are talking about that because what you’re saying is that Dan Odegaard’s performance is sub-par or something. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be looking at these questions on his character and on his contract negotiations. The board had how many months to negotiate with him? I mean, months – a number of months. Six-plus months the board was negotiating and talking with him. And things just didn’t happen. Now, I don’t know whose fault it was. I don’t think that YOU know whose fault it was. [Rajala interjected: I don’t.] So I feel that it is improper for us to sit here and second guess a contract when we’re not there and we’re not privy to all of the information. But sometime in the future, we might be privy to the information and then I would expect maybe some conversation to come about. But at this point in time, unless the board has something that they are concerned about, I think we’re all out of line to even discuss it.

Rajala: You think I’m out of line for asking this question?

Resident #1: Yes, I do.

Rajala: You do? You think this is alright? If you were working for somebody – ?

Resident #1interrupted: I would have handled it differently from the get-go.

Rajala: Ok. And that’s what I think.

Resident #1: But it’s already done. The board did what they wanted to do, Dan did what he wanted to do. Where are we coming from at this point until we have all the information. You and I could sit here until we are all blue in the face, but we don’t have the information on what went on. [Rajala interjected: That’s right.] So it’s not even a proper conversation.

Rajala: Well, I think it is. I think it’s a question that needed to be asked, and I asked it.

Resident #1: That’s just – Gene I agree with you. You should ask all of these questions. And we should work towards getting answers. I have asked countless times for information on Jack. I had a meeting with Jack over a year ago and it turned quite contrary to the words that Jack had given me at a meeting that I had with him in Marcell. I’m at the point right now where I see all of these things going on, we’re wasting everybody’s time in the room by talking about some of these things without having all the facts. IF we have the facts, then we should be able to get these things squared up. Two people should easily be able to rationally discuss something and clear up an issue if you’ve got the facts on the table.

Rajala: Well, if you don’t ask the question, then you never get to the facts. You have a right to ask a question twice, and at a later date.

Resident #1: You can ask it 100 times. And I’m going to ask this question. Jack, you’ve had three times – at least that I can guess at – that meetings were set up with Dan and you didn’t show up at the meetings.

Hillstrom: You just said that before.

Resident #1: Yes. Why?

Hillstrom: I answered you once before.

Resident #1: That’s an unacceptable answer.

Hillstrom: That’s the way it is.

Resident #1, speaking quite loudly: Who are you to sit here and demand to have MY agenda put down before you will come to a meeting? Where do you come from that you think that you can just come into the hospital district and say, “I want my agenda put on the table. Dan cannot talk about it!” [The resident was slapping the table with most of those words, so this may not be quite what was said.

Hillstrom: I did not just come into the hospital district. I live here.

Resident #1: You live here. [Hillstrom interjected: Yes.] I do too. And my tax dollars are being impinned (sic) because of the things that you are doing right now that are not proper!

Chairman Karels: OK. Let’s hold up here now, please. [Nathe interjected: Mr. {Resident #1}, you are getting kind of hot.] That’s the kind of conversation that you can have out in the hall. Not that I disagree or agree with anything you guys are saying, it’s just that we want to keep it civil.

Mills: A little clarification on the signing bonus. I happen to chair the Compensation Committee and have for many years. Dan worked here for 10 years and he had no pension plan. One year we gave him a bonus. I would have to look it up – either $5,000 or $8,000. We would like to reward him. The hospital got many, many honors in the last two years. The best hospital in the nation. The signing bonus was really a reward for excellent past service and growing the hospital to what it is, the honors that it has received. It sounds peculiar, maybe, to call it a signing bonus, but that’s what we happened to name it. But it was an appreciation bonus for him.

Hillstrom: Carol, then why did it have a five-year pay back if he left?

Mills: Oh, you are talking about severance now.

Hillstrom: No. The $50,500, as I recall.

Mills: I don’t have the contract with me.

Hillstrom: As I recall, it says that if he doesn’t stay beyond a year, he has to pay part of it back, after two years, so much back, and so on.

Mills: And that’s a good thing. But it was an appreciation thing.

Karels: Since I have been on the hospital board, our goal on the board level, the manager’s level and Dan’s level, is to try to reduce the tax levy. That’s why we have tried to go into some other ventures so we could make some more money, so we could reduce the tax levy. We have done a really good job at keeping it where it is now. That’s phenomenal when you look at other hospitals that have taxing authority. We have built on to the hospital – I know we have been criticized for having it be too nice – well, we like to have nice things for nice people. And that’s what draws people in. [Speaking to Resident #1] You are absolutely right that some of our local folks are now going to other places because of some of the bad things that they feel how this place is being run. And that is a HUGE hit to our bottom line. I know that Gene had a comment about our advertising over on the range. Well, we had to advertise to pick up some of those people that we have lost. If that keeps up, well, you know what’s going to happen to the tax levy. Our whole goal is to eliminate that. I know that’s your goal, too, is to keep it low and offset it. That’s what we have been working on all these years and we have done a real good job of doing that. And now I don’t know what’s going to happen.

Mills: Jack, you said at a meeting that maybe the tax levy is too low.

Hillstrom: Yes, I did.

Mills: So, if we have to raise it because of loss of revenue from loss of patients – we’ll have to raise it. [Hillstrom interjected: Right.] And everyone will be very upset in this economy.

Hillstrom: Including me.

Mills: But you acted like it was OK to raise it, because you said maybe it was too low.

Hillstrom: Yes, I did, because it’s unusual that it’s never gone up.

Mills: Eleven years, we’ve never raised it.

Hillstrom: Yes.

Sorrentino: But isn’t that some credit to the CEO?

Hillstrom: Absolutely. Yes, it certainly is. I’ve never –

Zeine, interrupting Hillstrom: What I don’t understand is, after all this time, if the everything is so positive, and the hospital’s been growing, and it’s been because of Dan, management, the board – it’s a group effort – what happened a year ago that everything just went sky-high and blew up? All the sudden all these negative comments are coming out about the hospital, and it just all started to go down hill, through your committee.

Rajala: I think the thing that started this was the disemployment (sic) of some of your employees. That’s what opened the door.

Zeine: Well, that was a bad time when things were going down. I think it affected a lot of people.

Rajala: I think that’s what opened the door and that’s when a lot of people got opinions at the time. [Zeine interjected: Well, of course they will. That was very emotional.] And there was very poor public relations that went on here and employee relations. And you will have to admit that, because there is nothing else you can do about it.

Zeine: I’m not going to deny it. I am just saying that was a very down time that hit all over the entire country.

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