Memorial Commission chair meets resistance

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Steve Hyde, the chairman of the Memorial Commission looking into the hospital system’s future, has laid down more than a few limits that have effectively muzzled fellow board members.

But his latest grab for dominance met with stiff resistance from several of those people.

Hyde wanted to be the clearinghouse of all information that flowed between the commission and Memorial’s administration.

Any commissioner wishing to speak with Memorial staff should ask him, he told his fellow board members last week, and if he deemed their request worthy, he would pass it along to Memorial administration.

“That’s like asking ‘Mother, may I?’” complained board member Bill Hodson. “I don’t think you should act as a filter just for us to clarify a point.”

Other commissioners said the resolution would have a chilling effect on their work.

“I don’t need your permission,” board member Bill Murray told Hyde. “You are becoming an impediment (to the process). The City Council very clearly gave us the authority to gather information and to ask questions of Memorial at any time. And when I spoke to you, you wanted to know why I needed to know that.”

In response, Hyde said the commission should focus on the future, not the past actions of the board or administration. That prompted Murray to once again challenge him.

“I find this terribly concerning,” he said. “What they did in the past has direct bearing on what we’re doing. You keep saying we don’t look at the past, but how do you make a judgment if you don’t have all the information?”

Clearly frustrated, Hyde repeatedly tried to get a vote on a resolution that would give him control over board communications, telling members that they could “address it later, if it didn’t work.”

“I’m not trying to censor anyone,” he objected. “I should be the channel for questions, so we don’t over-burden Memorial with too many requests. We need to make sure we stay on task, so staff doesn’t answer questions that aren’t specifically focused.”

Co-chair Martha Barton said she understood Hyde’s intent. As executive director of the Pikes Peak Hospice and Palliative Care, she has to deal with questions from her board of directors — questions that can take important staff time away from their main mission.

“It can be very burdensome,” she said. “It takes a lot of staff time and energy. To address things that happen in the past just seems unnecessary.”

Hyde he already is the sole public voice of the commission. Despite promising transparency and openness, he managed to place a gag order on the commission at its first meeting in March.

Under that directive, he is the only person allowed to speak with the media on any issue concerning the commission and its work.

That’s forced board members to stay silent. “If you want to know my opinion, I certainly have a hundred of them,” Barton said. “But I just can’t talk about it.”

Hyde said, again, he wasn’t trying to act as a censor.

“We don’t need 10 different opinions out there,” he explained. “That’s counterproductive. We only need one opinion being expressed.”

If anyone has a question, they are more than welcome to attend board meetings, he said.

The meetings are held at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, when most people are at work. Hyde doesn’t see that as a problem. He insists he is running the commission as “transparently” as any public meeting can be. “This is the best way to do it,” he said. “We don’t want to waste time hashing out a bunch of different opinions.”

Amy Gillentine can be reached at amy.gillentine@csbj.com and 719-329-5205.