Erlanger won't delay CEO search

Erlanger won't delay CEO search

January 3rd, 2013 by Judy Walton in Local Regional News

The Erlanger Medical Center is seen in this aerial photo.

Photo by John Rawlston /Times Free Press.


* Rear Adm. Donald R. Gintzig: Serves on both active and reserve duty for "one of the nation's largest and most integrated health systems" as senior health care executive for the U.S. Navy. Former CEO for United Health Group in Minneapolis, Minn., and president and CEO of Middle Tennessee Medical Center in Murfreesboro, Tenn.

* Ken D. Haynes: Former CEO of St. Joseph Health System in central and eastern Kentucky. Previous CEO of St. Vincent Health System in Little Rock, Ark., and assistant administrator of Baptist Memorial Hospital in Memphis.

* Kevin M. Spiegel: Oversees Methodist University Hospital and also is an assistant professor at the University of Tennessee Health Sciences Center College of Medicine. Previous president and CEO for Trumbull Memorial Hospital in Warren, Ohio.

Jan. 2, 2013 - Erlanger Board Statement Regarding CEO Search:

Over the past few weeks, Erlanger's Board has received questions and comments regarding the Erlanger CEO search. In order to give Erlanger employees and the general public more clarity regarding the CEO search process, the Board of Trustees has issued the following statement:

In April of 2012 the Erlanger Health System Board passed a resolution authorizing creation of a search committee and the retention of an executive search firm to identify CEO candidates. The eight-member Search Committee, chaired by Dr. Phyllis Miller, consisted of five trustees and three additional members. Five of the eight members are physicians, including Erlanger's current and future Medical Chief of Staff, and the Dean of the University of Tennessee College of Medicine Chattanooga (UTCOMC).

To assist with the CEO recruitment process, the search committee selected the nationally recognized executive search firm, Witt / Kieffer. Witt / Kieffer developed a leadership profile following extensive interviews with community leaders, public officials, physicians, employees, executives and members of the Board. Using the leadership profile, and comparing credentials and experience from hundreds of resumes, the search firm presented a dozen candidates to the committee. The committee narrowed the field to six internal and external candidates who participated in local interviews. This process is consistent with CEO searches conducted by Witt / Kieffer over its 43 year history in the healthcare executive search business.

On December 6 the search committee completed its responsibility to Erlanger's board by providing resumes of the three final candidates. Board Chair Ron Loving expressed appreciation to the committee, commending them for taking their responsibility seriously, and ensuring the integrity of the process. He noted that "The significant commitment of time and effort given by committee members is evident and I thank them for their diligence and hard work." The board voted to affirm the work of the committee and is continuing the process with the three remaining candidates visiting and meeting with board members, executives, physicians and employees. The interviews with these candidates will be completed this month, with the final decision being made during the first quarter of 2013 in a public meeting by a vote of the full board.

The goal throughout this transition has been and always will be to deliver exceptional care and service to our patients. Our intent is to position Erlanger for the future with strong leadership that can build on the current momentum, resulting in a financially stable and healthy system.

We know that through the input and support of our dedicated employees, physicians, patients, and community leaders, Erlanger will continue as Chattanooga's number one hospital.

Erlanger hospital trustees say they aren't changing their timeline for hiring a new CEO despite a request from local state lawmakers to slow down.

"The interviews with the candidates will be completed this month, with the final decision being made by the end of March during an open meeting by a vote of the full board," Erlanger spokeswoman Pat Charles said in an email Wednesday.

Board members held an unscheduled, unannounced meeting Dec. 27 to discuss a letter from House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick. The Chattanooga Republican's Dec. 19 letter said the delegation plans to overhaul the 1976 legislation setting up the hospital authority that operates Erlanger Health System.

On Wednesday, McCormick said he is satisfied with the pace of the hiring process after speaking with search committee chairwoman Dr. Phyllis Miller, board Chairman Ronald Loving and others.

"They told me their normal process will take them past January 31 anyway. I'm fine with that -- my concern was they were going to go ahead and name somebody this week. They assured me they weren't going to."

Even if they had, he added, "They had every right to do that, and I don't have any problem with that. I have faith and I have confidence the board will pick a good person."

Finalist retired Rear Adm. Donald R. Gintzig has already visited Chattanooga and interviewed with trustees; Ken D. Haynes is in Chattanooga this week; and Kevin M. Spiegel, regarded by some to be the frontrunner, will be interviewed here next week.

Erlanger trustees are seeking a replacement for Jim Brexler, who was forced out in December 2011 after the hospital drove away doctors and lost more than $6 million in five months.

Some trustees and others have complained the replacement process has been rushed. Some were critical when three CEO finalists were named in December, saying they'd had only minutes before the board voted to affirm the process. Some trustees and doctors also were dismayed that interim CEO Charlesetta Woodard-Thompson's name wasn't on the list of finalists.

After receiving McCormick's letter, Loving said Dec. 21 that the trustees would probably call a special meeting in the first week of January to discuss McCormick's letter.

But several trustees told the Chattanooga Times Free Press that they met without any public notice last week. Some said they talked about McCormick's letter. Miller said, "We talked about a number of things -- strategy was part of it."

She said she didn't know whether any public notice was given for the meeting, referring the Times Free Press to Loving.

The newspaper sent emails and left phone messages for Loving on Dec. 26 and 27 asking if a meeting was scheduled, but he did not respond. He also did not respond directly to messages seeking comment Wednesday.

In an email Wednesday, Charles said, "Regarding your question about the Dec. 27 meeting, Board Chairman Ron Loving stated that 'no action was taken at that meeting that would require it being open to the public.'"

Gregg Gentry, vice president of human resources at Erlanger, also said the meeting did not have to be open "based on the topic being discussed," but could not say specifically why.

Under state law, the board may hold nonpublic meetings under very limited circumstances, including discussing strategy.

However, the board must give notice in a public meeting that it intends to hold a private session, say what is to be discussed and then vote to close the meeting. That procedure apparently was not followed.

Frank Gibson, public policy director for the Tennessee Press Association, said there's no personnel exemption in the public meetings law.

"I know of no exemption to the Sunshine Law that allows them to meet to discuss something like a letter from the Legislature," Gibson said Wednesday. "The question is, what public notice did they give and what else did they discuss in the meeting?"