After weeks of delay in naming a replacement trustee to the board that oversees Erlanger Health System, the Chattanooga City Council approved the appointment one day after the board narrowly voted to give its outgoing CEO a hefty severance package.
Dr. Nita Shumaker, who was recommended by the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Medical Society, will replace Dr. Charles Longer on Erlanger's board of trustees. Longer's eight-year stint ended Nov. 1, but trustees serve until their replacements are appointed.
The medical society's one appointment to the 11-member board also must be approved by the county and city.
The society's executive director, Rae Young Bond, met with Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger and Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield in early November to make the society's recommendation, according to newspaper archives. The county approved Shumaker on Nov. 16.
In mid-December, Littlefield said he would place the approval on the council agenda after the hospital board settled issues with former Erlanger CEO Jim Brexler. Bond said she disagreed with the mayor's decision.
Erlanger announced Brexler's retirement on Nov. 18. Trustees haggled for weeks whether to approve a $728,000 severance package for Brexler, whose last day was Dec. 31. They initially rejected the package in a 4-4 vote, but on Monday morning approved it 5-4.
On Thursday, Bond said she was delighted the City Council approved Shumaker's appointment. She declined to comment on the timing.
Before council members approved Shumaker, Councilman Peter Murphy noted that state lawmakers are talking about reforming the way board appointments are made. According to the council minutes, Murphy said it is time to change the "really goofy way" the board is composed.
State lawmakers met last week to discuss possible changes to board appointments and the hospital authority in general.
Earlier this week, Dr. Phillip Burns, chairman of the department of surgery at the University of Tennessee College of Medicine's campus in Chattanooga, said he did not understand the city's decision to hold up the appointment.
"They've never done something like this before," Burns said. "It's been in limbo. If they would have said no, the medical society could have come back with another appointment."
Even after Tuesday's appointment, the board is still short one trustee. Trustee Pat Quinn, president of U.S. Xpress, died in December. Hamilton County officials, who appointed Quinn, have not named his replacement.