Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield delays vote on Erlanger trustee

Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield delays vote on Erlanger trustee

December 21st, 2011 in News

Ron Littlefield, City of Chattanooga Mayor

Photo by Patrick Smith/Times Free Press.

Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield said Tuesday he won't finalize an appointment of a replacement trustee to the board that oversees Erlanger hospital until all is settled with outgoing CEO Jim Brexler.

"Mayor Littlefield is not going to be appointing anyone until the Brexler issue is settled," said Littlefield spokesman Richard Beeland. "He just doesn't think it would be fair to bring someone in right now considering all the turmoil the board is going through."

By statute, one of the Hospital Authority's 11 unpaid board members is recommended by the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Medical Society and approved by the county and city. Dr. Charles Longer has served two terms for the medical society, and his eight-year stint ended Nov. 1.

Trustees serve until their replacements are appointed.

The society's executive director, Rae Young Bond, met with both Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger and Littlefield in early November to make the society's recommendation for Dr. Nita Shumaker. The society's board of directors voted unanimously for Shumaker, Bond said.

"We have talked to Mayor Littlefield, who said there is no issue with the appointment; however, he thinks it is prudent to allow the existing Erlanger board to resolve the current issues before adding new voices to the board," Bond said in an email. "The Medical Society respectfully disagrees and believes the appointment should proceed to ensure that physician voices are heard at this critical time in the life of this important hospital system."

On Nov. 16, the county approved Shumaker, leaving only the city to act.

The City Council has met six times since Bond visited Littlefield last month.

Dan Johnson, Littlefield's chief of staff, said it usually takes about two weeks to get something on the council's agenda.

The council did not consider the matter Tuesday night.

Rae Young Bond, Executive Director of the Chattanooga Hamilton County Medial Society and Project Access

Photo by Dan Henry/Times Free Press.

On Nov. 10, Bond sent a letter to the city and mayors, detailing Shumaker's qualifications, including two years as Erlanger's chief of staff and serving on the clinical faculty for the UT College of Medicine in Chattanooga.

Johnson said he wasn't aware the Shumaker appointment was pending until Dec. 8, when Bond called to follow up on the matter.

Bond said she has made calls to City Hall to determine the appointment's status. Officials told her the appointment would be made after Littlefield's trip to Germany last week.

On Nov. 18, the hospital announced Brexler's resignation and, since then, the board of trustees has been determining what, if any, severance he should receive.

On Dec. 12 in a 4-4 vote, the board declined a deal that would have been worth $727,000 to Brexler. At the same meeting the board unanimously accepted his resignation, effective Dec. 31.

Longer missed the Dec. 12 vote for health reasons.

Board changes also have complicated the severance negotiations. Dan Quarles, who served eight years as a county appointee to the board of trustees, came off the board and was replaced on Dec. 7 by Michael Griffin.

Trustee Pat Quinn, president of U.S. Xpress, died last week. Quinn was appointed by the county.

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