The Block Island Times

Letters to the Editor, May 18, 2013

May 20, 2013

To the Editor:

I would like to provide a history on the establishment of Block Island Health Services Inc. (BIHS) and the original by-laws.

I was on the Board of Directors before the medical center existed. At that time, our doctors were providing medical care out of two rooms in the doctor’s house. The third room was used as a waiting room and the hall was used as a reception area.

The board decided to ask the Town Council to purchase the Davidson property next door so that BIHS could start a fundraising effort to build a much needed medical center. It took a lot of hard work by the board members and staff members who ran fundraisers, and through generous donations we were able to accomplish our goal. Nancy W. Greenaway was our administrator, the overseer and the backbone for this project and she kept the board right on track. There was no job too large or small for her. She did most of the work for setting up the by-laws so they would be fair and legal.

We discussed the possibility of charging a facility fee but felt it was unfair to charge Block Island taxpayers who were already giving their support through their taxes. Nancy checked with our lawyer and discovered that we could make all Block Island taxpayers members of BIHS Inc., and anyone not a taxpayer would have to pay the facility fee which in turn would help to support the medical center.

We also discussed how the new board members would be elected and/or appointed. Two members would be appointed by the board of directors: one appointed by the town council and one by the rescue squad. All other members would be elected by members of the BIHS board at the same day as the presidential election. Any member requesting an absentee ballot had to comply with the same timeline as for the general election and was sent the absentee ballot. The ballotting was held at the medical center because the ballotting for town was held at the school. Instead of the voting list, the medical center used the town tax book to check off people who voted. If you were not a taxpayer, you were not allowed to vote. The center was staffed with board members and volunteers and opened and closed the same time as the town polls.

When the paid membership was established, it was my understanding that these were considered “friends” of the medical center and to help raise extra funds. Also, anyone who was not a taxpayer could buy a membership for a year for $25 and not have to pay the facility fee. I don’t know how this all changed so fast and would like to see the minutes of the open meetings when all these changes took place. I was on the board for 20-plus years and all the rules I mentioned were still in place when I left.

We as board members had to make a lot of decisions, but all of those decisions were for the best interest of the people of Block Island and all our visitors. We should all be working together to accomplish this goal, but from what I read in the paper and hear on the street, this is not happening. Forget all your petty disputes and power plays and put things back to the way they were.

At the town financial meeting, I mentioned that the $123,800 in support requested by BIHS would pay for 4,952 memberships and allow the taxpayers to vote for the board members in their upcoming election. I feel all board members, when their terms are up, should be elected at the same time and not have two separate elections. I know what the cost was for mailings while I was a board member and this extra election is a waste of time and money and just another way to separate the community.

Amelia Verna Littlefield

Old Town Road

To the Editor:

With the election of Block Island Health Services (BIHS) board members in progress, it is important to correct inaccurate statements made in Ken Maxwell’s letter published in The Block Island Times of May 11, 2013.

Specifically, Mr. Maxwell claims that the board has made “little or no effort at fundraising” and “as a result, they have seriously eroded the BIHS endowment.” To the contrary, BIHS has continued to raise funds through the annual events, including “Swing Into Spring” in June, “The Sunday Funday Run” in August and the “Lights of Love” holiday campaign in December. Last year, BIHS realized its highest total ever in fundraising for these events. However, a large shortfall was the result of the petition to withhold donations by those opposed to the management change at the medical center in July of 2012. Because of this, the board had little choice but to withdraw funds from the endowment to pay bills.

Stating that the board has been fiscally irresponsible is also inaccurate. Significant strides have been made to improve center finances. Cindy Baute’s efforts to cut costs and develop a more productive mailing list produced a robust “Lights of Love” campaign. Treasurer Pete Tweedy worked to bring our financial records in compliance with generally accepted accounting principles; he revised monthly financial reports to align with the format used in audit submissions, thereby eliminating confusion between monthly reports and audits. Additionally, he has worked to improve collections and resolve paperwork issues that had blocked payments from some insurers. Donations and fundraising income for the first quarter of 2013 were well ahead of projections.

Hopefully, this letter will assist the community in deciding the future direction of the B.I. Medical Center.

Cookie Lenoci

Corn Neck Road

Shannon Morgan

Chapel Street, BIHS Board Member

To the Editor:

I read, and was somewhat surprised by, the letter submitted to the editor by Monty Stover in the May 3 edition of The Block Island Times. On the morning that Monty’s employment was terminated, I was continually with Monty from the time our meeting with him began at the Block Island Medical Center to the time he departed. My following recollection of what happened that morning is somewhat different than Monty’s version.

After a short meeting with me and two other members of the board, and having weighed the alternatives and elected to submit his resignation effective immediately, Monty and I went to the Executive Director’s office to retrieve some of his personal effects. We were there for 20 or 30 minutes, during which time Monty was very willing to show me where certain files were that we would need, to update me on current projects, and to point out those items that he felt would need immediate attention. He gave me his keys to the medical center and the corporate credit card, as well as passwords to key accounts. He gave me the combination to the office safe, showed me how to open it and reviewed contents with me. He offered advice and suggestions about the BIHS operation and was very open in answering any questions I had. In all, without any arm twisting, Monty was very cooperative and, especially under the circumstances, very pleasant to me at what was certainly an awkward time for both of us.

After covering all of the immediate needs, Monty decided it was time to leave and asked if he could come back at another time to collect his remaining personal effects. I readily agreed and accompanied him to his car where we exchanged best wishes, shook hands and Monty departed. I did not at any time desire to rush him out the door. Quite the contrary, the time he spent with me and the information he passed on was very valuable and much appreciated.

I certainly apologize that Monty and I recall this time from very different personal and emotional perspectives and that considerable time has elapsed since that event, but I do think it is important for everyone to understand that there are at least two versions of events that unfolded that day.

Renwick “Pete” Tweedy

Coast Guard Road

To the Editor:

It is time for the officers of the medical board to face reality: denying all candidates access to the current membership/voters list is one stonewall too many. With the Medical Center receiving over $120,000 of public funding from the Town of New Shoreham it can hardly be considered a private organization; it clearly is now part of the public domain and as such is subject to the freedom of information rules that must be respected by public bodies.

But just as important is the fact that the two incumbents have, and have had access to this information and might well be using it to solicit votes from members unknown to the challengers. Many members are “cottagers” who vacation here and without access to the membership list would be unknown to the challengers. Current incumbent and board member Cindy Baute states in her 150 word “blurb” sent with the ballots that she” culled through outdated addresses” in her quest to reduce mailing costs. This had to include membership for nonpayment of dues.

Incumbent Pete Tweedy as board member and treasurer de facto would have to have access to paid-up members. The only advantage to keeping the membership rolls a secret is to the incumbents. No public good is served.

Steve McQueeny

High Street

To the Editor:

Regrettably, I am compelled to write again after receiving my “secret” Block Island Health Services election materials. Mary and I will vote this time for new directors — it’s no secret. However, in my opinion, the membership drive should be simplified to be an annual fund request and BIHS election administration should be handled by the town at the same time as other elections. New Shoreham capably provides an independent process with public advertising that would be comforting. Micro-managing with unnecessary bureaucratic tasks burdens the executive director.

The BIHS letter accompanying the ballots again raises controversy and includes misleading statements. Why was an incumbent board member, who is running for re-election, on the nominating committee to find candidates? Why is an incumbent candidate praised for “culling” bad addresses and using a non-profit permit when third party mail houses previously used automatically identified bad addresses and also provided non-profit bulk rate reductions? The statement about bringing BIHS into conformance with generally accepted accounting principles is self-patronizing.

The treasurer and the new bookkeeper are not certified public accountants. The accounting firm of CPAs used since 1996 has always helped BIHS strive to comply or correct shortcomings to remain in compliance with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP).

I also remain concerned that the original town funding request for over $183,000 (nearly $100,000 higher than last year) included over $32,000 in non-cash depreciation expense, unnecessarily inflating the shortfall for the first time this year. Funding for needed equipment and other capital improvements is better handled via grant requests to help minimize local property taxes.

Change is good … and it is time for more changes at BIHS.

Monty Stover

Old Center Road

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