The Block Island Times

Letters to the Editor, Dec. 7, 2012

Dec 12, 2012

To: the Editor—

Helping Hands food pantry could not exist without a community of people who live what they believe. This Thanksgiving was a success due to combined efforts: The Washington Trust Bank provided the funds for the turkeys. Kimberly at the Beachead made sure there were fresh vegetables and fruit. Our supporters and Block Island Residents Association provide us with the means to buy what is needed. Add this to the silent score of volunteers who cheerfully show up to unload, lift and are always ready to work when asked, and we say God bless you and thank you.

Elisa Hundt

Mimi Leveille

Barbara Temple

To: the Editor—

I read with chagrin the letter written by G. Comeau and published in the Dec. 1 issue of the Times, and wish to respond to several of her statements.

1. The request for Mr. Stoverʼs resignation did not develop suddenly, but came to pass after months of deliberation during which he was made aware of concerns. The statement that four people are now doing his job is just “pants on fire” false. The job of executive director is being covered by one full time equivalent, me and our accountant. He is the only addition to payroll, and does not receive benefits. We do not have 10 employees.

2. What led up to his “firing” or resignation? Ms. Comeau, as a former board member, should realize that for good legal reasons, the present board cannot discuss that subject. But reasonable thinking people will understand that an employee of long standing is not released without cause.

3. After hearing that there was some interest in knowing the number of applicants, the Search Committee now reports there were 18.

4. BIHS does want to and has generally complied with the stateʼs open meeting laws, in spite of the fact that BIHS is not subject to that law. There was a recent notable exception to this, when Mr. Stoverʼs representative asked for an urgent meeting with the board at very short notice. There are certain areas where bureaucracy and form interfere with function where the board may suggest some leeway as it contracts with the Town Council.

5. A few words about Richard Weisbroatʼs “helpful” suggestions. As for rude and rebuffs, when Mr. W. calls the Medical Center four to five times in an hour, that is more than rude, that interferes with patient care. And when he calls board members four to five times in a day, even at 11:30 p.m., and keeps them on the line for 45 minutes or more, shouting and haranguing, that goes beyond rude and shameful. And when he accuses me of shredding important Medical Center documents, that is contemptible.

6. What about the number of board members? The number for a working, participating, volunteer board may vary. In the case of BIHS, its board is a helpful group of individuals knowledgeable and experienced in health care, business management, real estate, and accounting who are called upon to do hands on work. It includes important community representatives from Rescue and Town Council. Is there some magic right number?

It is my hope that members of the community will come together to support and help the Medical Center move forward in its mission of providing high-level health care to our island neighbors and visitors. Our staff continues to do its fine work. I look forward to the day when more of the public appreciates the difficult position of our board and the pressure it has lived with as it dealt with a thorny, distressing personnel issue.

Peter B. Baute, MD

BI Med Ctr Interim Director

To: the Editor—

Recently, a paper entitled “Report of Organizational Assessment of Block Island Health Services” (hereafter: “report”) dated September 30, 2011, was made available to me, Peter Saxon. The report was commissioned and paid for by the Block Island Health Services Board (BIHS Board).

The report was prepared by Maria Montanaro, a consultant and formerly CEO of Thundermist, the provider with whom BIHS sought unsuccessfully to partner. For the record, neither Monty Stover nor the board provided me with this report.

In order to assist the BIHS membership and community in understanding why reform is critical in the board membership , structure and operation, I have excerpted relevant portions from the four Sections of the 13-page report.

In the first section, dealing with leadership and governance, the consultant notes that in regard to the Board of Directors and its standing and advisory committees:

* Committee meetings have not been consistent among all committees and staffing for the committees is somewhat vague, and may be a moot point given the size of the (medical center) staff. The committees would probably function better with consolidation and clearer charges.

* When necessary, typically at most meetings, the board goes into a closed session, which is not open to non-board members. This two-step board meeting has created some apprehension among BIHS staff, members and the public.

* The board... is overly involved in the daily management of the center...

* The board needs to extricate itself from some of its direct involvement in managerial issues.

* Monty (Stover) cannot play all the managerial roles required of him.

* The board meetings, bylaws and committees should be reorganized to improve overall governance functions and mitigate some of the board-management-staff problems that exist.

* Some ad-hoc committees should be consolidated (note: there are 11 committees).

* The human resources committee (note: chaired by the husband of the board president) is getting into staff management issues, and needs to be recharged to a governance and oversight role.

In Section III of the report, dealing with financial management, the consultant stated:

* A financial analysis (note: as of September 30, 2011) indicates that BIHS has a healthy balance sheet, great equity and a strong current (equity to debt) ratio, as well as little debt.

* BIHS could sustain many years of small operational deficits given this financial position.

*...there are no indications (emphasis supplied by PS) from the auditor’s statements or (the) analysis that any instances of mismanagement of funds have occurred under Monty’s tenure as executive director.

* ...Right now, (BIHS) it does the most cost-effective thing, which is, it does not address the issues and Monty manages the finances as part of his responsibilities. This is the cheapest option, but not the strongest in terms of management.

In Section IV the consultant notes:

* To fully realize its mission as a community health center, it (BIHS) will need to address its issues in governance, leadership, quality assurance and fulfillment of mission to the neediest in the community.

This report clearly states that as of a year ago BIHS was financially healthy under Monty Stover’s guidance and could operate in the black for many years in the foreseeable future. Yet, only a year later with a new E.D. and financial staff at the helm and without the sure hand of Monty Stover to steady the ship, we are told that the board needs $125,000 extracted from its modest endowment to continue operations! Furthermore, its own consultant criticizes the problems created by (i) the board’s propensity for closed meetings; (ii) the board’s micromanagement of the staff; (iii) the overly complex mess of committees and closed meetings; and the excessive involvement of the human resources committee in staff management.

This report was buried because the board could not face the truths and deficiencies its own consultant found. Reform across the board is required. This board has consistently stonewalled any efforts to reform the way it makes decisions and conducts business.

It has refused to consider the time-tested Open Meetings law for inclusion in the management contract with the town. Instead of emphasizing donations, fundraising and grant-writing, this board has decided to spend its way out of the mess it created by fatally depleting the endowment.

It is time to change the way the medical center is governed. The board needs to be cleansed of those directors responsible for the present debacle. The size and structure of the board and its bloated committees need reform. The board is mistaken if it believes this community will not follow through with the changes required. The island has lost trust in the decision-making ability of this board. This board has shown it cannot respond to the island’s urgent concerns. This board must go.

The present directors should resign or be replaced by the membership or the town.

Peter Saxon

Corn Neck Road

To: the Editor—

The Block Island staff of The Nature Conservancy would like to thank our volunteers, supporters and all who came to our holiday open house over Thanksgiving weekend. We were overwhelmed by the show of support for our program and the collective efforts of the island’s conservation community. We have a great deal to be thankful for!

The Nature Conservancy would like to give special thanks to the following island businesses that contributed to the gathering: The Beachead, Club Soda, Finn’s Seafood Restaurant, McGovern’s Yellow Kittens and Winfield’s Restaurant, Red Bird Package Store, Poor Peoples Pub, and the 1661 Inn. We especially would like to give thanks to the generosity of Rita and Steve Draper and Justin Abrams for not only hosting the open house but also their dedication and commitment in making this event so successful.

We wish everyone a warm and joyous holiday season!

Scott Comings, Chris Littlefield, Adrian Mitchell, Charlotte Herring

The Nature Conservancy, Block Island Program

To the Editor—

A huge thank you to everyone who made the 8th Annual Turkey Trot (held on November 24) such a success. Our wonderful sponsors: Rebecca’s, Papa’s Pizza,  Philips’ Real Estate, Sullivan Real Estate, Jessie Edwards Studio, Diamond Blue, McGovern’s Yellow Kittens, Finn’s, Interstate Navigation, Keane Pet Grooming, The National Hotel, The Hygeia, The Anchor House, Clarey Clayworks, The Oar and the Riordan Family (especially Annie out there helping her grandfather at the water stop). Rob Closter, thank you for getting out there early and setting up the course and water stations. Kathy Szabo --— who might very well be the most organized woman I know — you never overlooked a single detail.

To each and every one of you who ran, walked, volunteered or cheered us all on, our sincerest thanks. It is difficult to believe that we lost Michael nine years ago. He was a great kid, full of personality and quite opinionated (but always polite). The Turkey Trot and your presence allows us, rather than remembering the sadness of our loss, to recall happier times with him. We are so very grateful for, once again, you all have gently ushered us into the Holiday Season.

Wishing you all a happy holidays and hope to see you again November 2013.

Megan Hennessy

On behalf of the Coords & Hennessy Families

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