Earnings fairness

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Plenty of residents are angry about the decision to pay former Memorial Health System CEO Larry McEvoy more than $1.15 million in severance.

But, who’s to blame? Is it McEvoy? The hospital board of trustees that approved the severance amount? Or is it City Council, the governing body that holds the board of trustees accountable?

The City Council certainly bears some responsibility, and if this were another city, Council President Scott Hente might stand to lose his job for the way he handled this situation.

Council has been silent about a number of issues concerning McEvoy, whom I lampooned months ago for using scare tactics to persuade Council and voters to turn the profitable Memorial into a nonprofit.

He wanted the hospital to himself, set up as a nonprofit with a board appointed by him.

Somehow, in the midst of negotiations about leasing the hospital, McEvoy received a $120,000 pay raise, based on what? Excellent performance?

Hente, and his right-hand woman, Council Pro Term Jan Martin, thought nothing of the raise.

They also didn’t challenge the severance pay until Mayor Bach forced the issue in an open letter to Hente. Convening Council, they agreed to dismiss MHS’ board and appoint their own. Does the Mayor have to wake up Hente and Martin from their political slumber? Are they really that out of touch with public sentiments?

What upsets residents at the end of the day isn’t how much money anyone makes, but rather morality. We want to know that someone in a position of power monitors abuses and ensures fairness in the system.

The same fairness questions have been raised before by the legendary Warren Buffet who paid taxes totaling 17 percent of his $40 million in taxable income. Romney’s tax rate for 2010 was 14 percent, while Obama, comparably the poorest, paid 20 percent on his $789,674 taxable income.

Do any of these relate to the 99 percent of American taxpayers?

The fact that Dr. McEvoy earns much more than the US President’s $400,000 only proves how much more valuable his services must be. If he were in private practice, no one would care. But he works for us, after all.

Perhaps the comparison should be closer to home. On MHS’ website, this note was posted: “On June 29, Memorial Health System will begin relying on Bonfils Blood Center, a Colorado organization, to collect blood and provide products for our patients. This change means Memorial will no longer operate its own blood donor services.”

Richard Titmuss’ The Gift Relationship (1971) suggested that countries where blood is donated rather than bought and sold had no shortages, and the blood in their banks was less contaminated. What does this switch in policy, under the leadership of McEvoy mean? Has he read the book?

Or is the financial cut implemented to ensure his salary raise and severance pay? Has he cut anything else at MHS to guarantee that he stays within the budget, and thereby doesn’t need his board to get Council approval?

It won’t be a week too early for MHS to be sold to UCH. Get this mess off our hands, because our own watchdogs, City Council, obviously lack the kind of leadership that can handle its fiduciary responsibilities.

How are they doing with Colorado Springs Utilities? The less you hear about council leadership and CSU, the more you should worry. At least with MHS there are leaks that get to the press and then to the public. CSU, by contrast, is so close-mouthed that no one knows what’s going on, including Council

This is an open plea for Council to probe the depths of CSU and devise a plan for selling it to the highest bidder. CEO Forte won’t care as much, now that he knows he can ask for a raise and get a hefty severance pay — it’s a win-win, no?

Raphael Sassower is professor of philosophy at UCCS. He can be reached at rsassower@gmail.com See previous articles at sassower.blogspot.com