Mayor Steve Bach and the three members of the Regional Leadership Forum weren’t officially appointed to the Memorial Task Force, and can meet privately to discuss the hospital’s future and the request for proposals to lease the hospital.
That’s the decision from this morning’s task force meeting. Acting only as ex-officio members allows the four men to meet without public notice about Memorial – and without the other members of the task force.
State law requires public notification of meetings whenever three or more members of the regular task force meet. Under the new guidelines, there are only four official task force members – council members Tim Leigh, Jan Martin, Brandy Williams and Merv Bennett.
The other people around the table – former council member Randy Purvis, Bach, and three members of the Regional Leadeship Forum – have no vote, and can discuss task force issues privately. It also allows them to meet privately with any two members of the task force.
“I don’t want to be held to that standard,” Bach said, as a standing room only crowd grumbled at the announcement. “I want to meet with these guys (the RLF) when I need to without noticing it.”
Most of the two-hour meeting dealt with the newest collaborators of the task force, the three members from the Regional Leadership Forum: Phil Lane, chairman of the forum; La Plata developer and Economic Development Corp. board chairman Doug Quimby and Nor’wood developer Chris Jenkins.
The city council vote didn’t actually make them members – at least that’s the way the argument went at today’s meeting. Instead, it made them collaborators, able to offer advice and vet the proposals for the hospital’s lease, but not able to vote. That distinction keeps them from following the open meetings act.
The audience was clearly unhappy with the suggestion that some meetings would be held outside public view.
“It feels less open,” one audience member said, “if there are all these side conversations that are not part of the official process, subject to open meetings law. It isn’t transparent and open then.”
Former council member and ex-officio board member Randy Purvis made a suggestion: have all the participants, official or not, agree to abide by the open meetings act.
“This is important to people,” he said. “Memorial has well over 4,000 employees who need the job to pay mortgages. The uncertainty has them twisting in the wind, leading to this level of suspicion and cynicism. We could end that by agreeing, even though we don’t have to, to follow the procedures in the open meetings act.”
Bach nixed the idea.
“People don’t trust this decision because they don’t think the original commission was open and transparent,” he aid. “I want to be able to meet and have discussions without noticing it. Decisions won’t be made in private, they’ll be made here.”
And council member Tim Leigh appealed to the audience: just trust us, he said.
“Give us the benefit of the doubt,” he said. “Trust us until we un-earn that trust. You people are mostly from Memorial and you’ve packed the room. That’s fine, but we have to consider the other 500,000 people who are also invested in Memorial. We have to protect them.”
For his part, Quimby said he received more than 100 emails questioning his new role in the Memorial process.
“We’re not evil,” he said. “We don’t have a personal interest in the outcome, none of us has a preconceived idea. We want to assist the process. We want to do what’s best for the community. We were asked to participate, to lend our service, advice. Our role is limited. We’re not anti-Memorial hospital.”
Jan Martin, the council member in charge of the task force, said the group remained committed to an open, transparent process.
“But we have a lot of work to do in a limited amount of time,” she said. “We can’t do it all meeting once a week. We’re going to be efficient, but the decisions will be made here.”
At next week’s task force meeting, the group will discuss the terms of the lease agreement and the parameters of the request for proposals.
The task force must make a recommendation to city council by the end of December, recommending which group will lease the hospital’s assets from the city. RFPs are expected to go out by the end of September, and are due back to the task force by the end of November.
In addition, Martin said she invited several health care professionals to participate: Dr. David Corry, a Memorial vascular surgeon, Carolyn Flynn, a Memorial trauma nurse, Dr. David Steinbruner, an Army doctor, Steve Schaefer, CEO of HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital, Dr. Michael Welch of Peak Vista Community Health Centers and Charlie Sweet, executive director of strategic planning and initiatives at the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs.