02/08/2018: "Appleton & Smith Appointed To SJC Public Hospital Board -& Some Controversy"
(L to R: Dr. Warren Appleton & Rebecca Smith -IG photo)
The San Juan County Public Hospital Board of Commissioners held a special meeting and work session Thursday night to complete interviews and then vote to appoint two of seven applicants to fill Position 5 and 3 of the commission -and of course that lead to controversy.
There were seven applicants: Dr. Warren Appleton; Dr. David Balmer; John Manning; David Meiland; Barbara Sharp; C. Mitchell Shlosser, and Rebecca Smith. Keri Talbott had put her name forward, but then withdrew.
The process of appointment went quickly, with few to no additional questions asked of the applicants with the exception of questions to two of the applicants who had only recently submitted materials. There was a little back-and-forth between sitting commissioner Anna Lisa Lindstrum and applicant Rebecca Smith when Lindstrum said she had a concern that Smith’s husband was an employee of the district, and that consulted a potential conflict of interest.
Smith said that she did not believe it would ever become an issue, but if the board felt it was during any contract negotiations, she would recuse herself.
At the end of the question and answer session the council moved to deliberations and went down the list to hold a plurality vote to appoint to Position 5. Each sitting commissioner could cast a single vote until a plurality was achieved.
There were two votes for Smith, who was then swore in, took a seat as a commissioner, and the next vote was to appoint an applicant to Position 3.
There were three votes for Dr. Appleton. He was sworn in and took a seat at the table.
The only controversy that arose in the meeting was at the end when an audience member asked if Commission Chair Edwards and Commissioner Schwinge had discussed the candidates outside of the meeting. Edwards said he and Schwinge discussed the candidates. This raised the question of a possible OPA (Wa Open Public Meetings Act) violation if there was a discussion of a preference of one candidate over another, or whom was voting for whom, or maybe, at least a possible “Appearance of Fairness” question issue.
Edwards told The Island Guardian that he and Commissioner Schwinge had brief conversations -“Of course we did!”-on if the applications were compete, and the stated qualification of the applicants -and Edwards said he called one of the applicants to clear up a question, but stated in no uncertain terms that “We certainly did not discuss or state preferences, or who we might vote for, or who the other person might vote for.. absolutely not.”
Edwards said the board will ask for a review of the actions by the appropriate parties to determine if they violated any procedures rules.
If a complaint were to be filed, and if it was proven and found that anyone committed a violation of the OPA, including the Appearance of Fairness Doctrine, then any “action taken at a meeting which fails to comply with the provisions of the OPMA is null and void. RCW 42.30.060”
Then what happens? If after all is said and done, and it is found the OPMA was violated, then the board would have to start over, take another vote to appoint, and this time make sure it complied with the OPMA.