Adair County Hospital‘s board of directors was wrong to hold a closed-session discussion about the future of an interim CEO because the discussion was about his retention, not posible discipline or dismissal, the Kentucky attorney general’s office found. It also concluded the hospital board did not have sufficient cause to discuss a report by Spectrum Health Partners in private.
Adair County Community Voice Publisher Sharon Barton submitted a written complaint to the board chairman March 30 alleging the violations. To remedy the matter, she asked for a copy of the PowerPoint presentation that had been viewed during the meeting as well as any minutes, notes, records and any other documents that had been reviewed.
The board replied that it was “clearly entitled to discuss this issue in executive session” because it was a personnel issue and so exempt from public discussion.
Assistant Attorney General Amye Bensenhaver disagreed, saying the personnel exemption applies only to discussions that might lead to the appointment, discipline or dismissal of an employee, member or student. “This exception shall not be interpreted to permit discussion of general personnel matters in secret,” she wrote. “The board acknowledges that the closed session discussion focused on securing the continued employment of the interim CEO and not on reviewing the comparative qualifications of competing applicants for the purpose of identifying the best qualified applicant to fill a vacant position. Although the potential for reputational damage exists where several individuals apply for a position and some must be eliminated based on their lesser qualifications, such potential does not exist where the discussion relates to the continued employment of a current employee.”
Bensenhaver also said the board should not have discussed the Spectrum report in closed session. The board was obligated to give notice “in regular open meeting … of the general nature of the business to be discussed in closed session,” she wrote. In correspondence, the board said that the report “contained information on specific individuals that might lead to discipline or dismissal” or might lead to litigation. “Even with this additional information, we believe the board’s … compliance fell short of the statutory requirements,” Bensenhaver wrote.