published Monday, December 12th, 2011

Chattanooga: Erlanger trustees reject severance for outgoing CEO Brexler; accept resignation

Gregg Gentry, senior. Vice President of Human Resources, leads a meeting with trustees of the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Hospital Authority held to discuss the transition plan for outgoing CEO Jim Brexler. The trustees voted to accept Brexler's resignation.
Gregg Gentry, senior. Vice President of Human Resources, leads a meeting with trustees of the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Hospital Authority held to discuss the transition plan for outgoing CEO Jim Brexler. The trustees voted to accept Brexler's resignation.
Photo by Dan Henry.
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Transition Agreement
Transition Agreement

Erlanger hospital’s board of trustees unanimously accepted CEO Jim Brexler’s resignation, but in a 4-4 vote, the trustees did not agree to give him a severance package worth at least $727,000 in salary and benefits.

After the agreement including the severance package failed, trustee Jennifer E. Stanley made a motion to accept the resignation and continue severance negotiations.

The first vote called would have accepted Brexler’s resignation, effective Dec. 31, and awarded him 15 months of salary and 18 months of health benefits.

Voting for the agreement were trustees Ronald A. Loving, James D. Hutcherson, Kim White and Dr. Phyllis E. Miller. Trustees who voted against a severance were Stanley, Richard Casavant, Russell T. King, Jr. and James A. Worthington, Jr. Trustees Dr. Charles F. Longer, Michael Griffin and Patrick E. Quinn were absent from the meeting.

The board voted unanimously to accept Brexler’s resignation.

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about Ansley Haman...

Ansley Haman covers Hamilton County government. A native of Spring City, Tenn., she grew up reading the Chattanooga Times and Chattanooga Free Press, which sparked her passion for journalism. Ansley's happy to be home after a decade of adventures in more than 20 countries and 40 states. She gathered stories while living, working and studying in Swansea, Wales, Cape Town, South Africa, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Ga., and Knoxville, Tenn. Along the way, she interned for ...

about Mariann Martin...

Mariann Martin covers healthcare in Chattanooga and the surrounding region. She joined the Times Free Press in February 2011, after covering crime and courts for the Jackson (Tenn.) Sun for two years. Mariann was born in Indiana, but grew up in Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Belize. She graduated from Union University in 2005 with degrees in English and history and has master’s degrees in international relations and history from the University of Toronto. While attending Union, ...

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Facts said...

I don't know Mr. Brexler but my wife's work has put us in contact with other players at Erlanger. It's interesting that here's a guy who lasted quite a while, seemed to be dealing with a mess (remember the $40 million fine a few yrs back) in a horrible economy that's never good for a charity hospital and the pieces of the equation that are constants through the years are the same politicians and doctors demanding special treatment. But I guess those are the ones really calling the shots and can't be fired.

December 12, 2011 at 9:58 a.m.
JJester said...

Where is truth in reporting in this piece so far. The fact is his contract calls for an additional $185K for 18 months of severance pay and this vote was for only 15 months severance. He will still get over $885K for no work at all. Why is a tax supported Hospital Authority giving this kind of a contract? No wonder our institutions are in such a decline. There are many hard working employees who get minimal raises and no severance pay at Erlanger and do the actual work! This man should be given no severance pay and continued health benefits when the morale of Erlanger employees is so low and in a recession at the expense of taxpayers and patients.

December 12, 2011 at 10:08 a.m.
ldurham said...

This story doesn't tell me anything. How much is he actually getting in severance pay? The headline makes it appear as though he's getting nothing, but I don't believe that's true. What actually happened this morning?

December 12, 2011 at 11:45 a.m.
SheldonC said...

FACTS is correct, and Mr. Brexler did more to help make Erlanger successful than any of his predecessors did and in a much worse economy. Unfortunately it’s always difficult to overcome the political pressure of those expecting special favors when you refuse to give them. For the record to all who seem confused about this matter, Erlanger is NOT a tax-funded hospital. Erlanger must operate on it’s own successful business operations of delivery of quality healthcare. The money paid to Erlanger by local governments is for uncompensated care for the citizens within those tax districts…that money is a few million dollars of the more than 80 million dollars provided. Imagine if the local taxes actually DID pay that bill for what Erlanger writes off for their citizens. Chattanooga and Hamilton County governments would be bankrupt or they'd have to bankrupt their citizens with triple the taxes.

December 12, 2011 at 1:36 p.m.
amandabuchanan said...

All this on the day Erlanger is ranked by U.S. News and World Report as the best hospital in Chattanooga and one of the best in Tennessee. It appears to me that Mr. Brexler has been successful in turning Erlanger into a hospital that makes national news for providing excellent healthcare rather than one recognized for corruption.
And when did it become legal in this country to terminate an employment contract with an employee under the argument "We changed our minds"?

December 12, 2011 at 2:38 p.m.
dl said...

While this seems crazy, it is ten times more sane than giving fired coaches millions in severance for jobs that are just games. Running a hospital would seem much more important.

December 12, 2011 at 3:08 p.m.
ExecAsst said...

I've said it before and I'll say it again, it all comes down to "political correctness" groups, cliques, and who bows down to who. It doesn't have to be about who the good employees are or who is doing a good job. That's the Erlanger way. In all fairness, Erlanger is not the only corporation who works this way.

December 12, 2011 at 4:21 p.m.
sweetdream20 said...

727,000 severance pay worth 15 months of salary. So the guy made more in one month than most employees made in 1-2 years of work. If the guy hasn't saved up enough money to retire comfortably for the rest of his life and his family lives then he should never have been in that job position. Don't ever fool yourself into believing Erlanger isn't tax dollar funded. They work extra hard to win grants to pay for their "charity" programs even if they already earn a profit (off the medicare program no less). They beg and beg for donations for those program(s) and people give their hard earned money, never realizing that that program doesn't actually ever NEED it. -_-

December 12, 2011 at 8:15 p.m.
Lr103 said...

If it's in his contract, I don't see how they can avoid honoring that. Either they can pay up now or pay more later through lawsuits, which will cost even more.

December 12, 2011 at 8:55 p.m.
Facts said...

I just read the "agreement" attached in the pdf. I wonder if the four board members can be sued for breach of contract in light of the fact that they just blocked the enforcement of the agreement that was apparently accepted in November? And the county wonders why Erlanger is an embarrassment on a cyclical basis!?

December 12, 2011 at 10:45 p.m.
smokey said...

[FACTS] I want to tell you are confused between the contract to give Brexler a severance package with so many months of his salary ONLY occurs IF The BOARD TERMINATES his contract. BUT if you read carefully the RESIGNATION and REQUEST for RETIREMENT came FROM Brexler so therefore the SEVERANCE package should NOT be PAID. I was an erlanger longtime WORKER (non Exec)and my position was eliminated and they gave me 8 weeks severance which at that time was the NEW max allowed no matter how long you had been there and my health benefit became part of the COBRA package for 18 months BUT IF I had resigned and asked for RETIREMENT I would NOT have even got that just my unused pal (vacation&sick)pay and since I was over 65 I could not keep my employee health ins either.

December 12, 2011 at 11:40 p.m.
formeremployee said...

I am not one to regularly, if ever, make posts, especially in what seems to be a possible hit piece against one individual, but I had to finally speak up, for the good of Erlanger hospital and for the good of the community.

As I see it, what this all amounts to is a dispute as to the level of due diligence Brexler has performed in his duties. What must be asked is:

1)Has he performed, 2)Could someone else have performed better, and 3)Where would we be today with someone else?

Personally I believe this hospital and the community of Chattanooga is far better off than it ever could have been without Brexler. I believe he has performed better than anyone else could have and without him Erlanger would have been in a much worse situation. Brexler has tackled a near impossible task of running a hospital with a history of problems, both in its administration/board and in its target demographic, and he has done quite well. Brexler has been recognized nationally by Presidents, statewide by the Tennessee Hospital Association and important stakeholders, and locally by numerous charity and special interests groups for his outstanding work and tireless dedication. He has brought an entire body of work with him that is rivaled by few with an entire career in bettering public hospital systems. Never being afraid of challenging the status quo, never backing down from from personal interests that would benefit at the public's expense. While I have never worked in this particular hospital those I have met that have/do are always pleased with its direction and Brexler's leadership.

That aside, as far as his severance packet, a deal is a deal and it seems very wrong to renege on a deal made in good faith. Which brings up a comment by one of the board members regarding physicians... is there more to this dispute than what meets the eye? Why is the CEO of a major organization being judged more by the opinions of a group of people with a financial interest in controlling the CEO rather than the outstanding performance outcomes of a major charity hospital in the greatest economic calamity since the Great Depression and a vested community at-large? Whats more, if the board does not grant this package to Brexler, what will the eventual costs be in terms of lawsuits and loss of Goodwill to the hospital and the community and how will the hospital be able to recruit strong leadership in the future if this is what Erlanger and specifically its board is known for? What does this say? I know if I were in this man's shoes Id want to be dealt with fairly and devoid of any petty emotional ploys by an apparently lethargic board. I believe the proposed package made Monday was a fair deal.

Pay the man his due. Pay the man his fair, rightful due, and then lets move forward.

December 13, 2011 at 9:29 a.m.
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