Riverside board ousts CEO

Published 11:54 pm Saturday, March 30, 2013

In a move that came as a shock to many, the Riverside Medical Center Board of Commissioners voted Thursday to terminate Calvin Green’s employment as chief executive officer.

The board’s decision was abruptly delivered to the standing-room only crowd assembled in the hospital cafeteria, with no discussion and no public comment. Concluding a two-hour executive session, Chairman Mike Cassidy called the meeting back into open session, and board member Lionel K. Jones made a motion that Green be terminated as CEO. Surprised, a couple of members of the crowd asked him to repeat it.

Green was voted out by a 6-3 margin, with Dr. Mark L. James, Walter Sylvest and Cassidy as the votes in opposition. Voting in favor of the firing were board members Jones, Rachel S. Gill, James W. Knight, Violet D. Tate, Lavern Jenkins, James T. Thomas. Board member Joseph Cobb was absent.

The board’s next motion, offered by James and unanimously approved, was to retain CFO Patty Mizell and “place her as interim CEO until a permanent CEO can be found.”

Cassidy discussed the board’s decision on the CEO in an interview Friday. It was, he noted, not unanimous, and he was one of the members who voted against the termination.

“Frankly, in my estimation, there was no reason to terminate him,” he said. “He had done exactly what the board had tasked him to do over the past year to reduce expenses in the proper administration of the hospital, given the financial difficulties that all hospitals are undergoing, and our specifically.”

There was no allegation Green was involved in any type of wrongdoing, Cassidy said, and, in his estimation, personality differences factored into the decision by the other board members.

“I thought Mr. Green was a very effective CEO, but the majority of the board felt otherwise,” he continued.

Additionally, some of the cost-cutting measures enacted by Green were unpopular, and he particularly took heat for layoffs of approximately seven employees last summer, Cassidy said.

“This is part of the fallout from making hard decisions,” he said.

Cassidy said no one is happy those decisions had to be made, but actions were needed to conserve finances and cut expenses. The board has been working on reducing expenses for several years, he said.

Furthermore, Cassidy said, there has been some misunderstanding about the hospital millage that passed last year. Some thought the millage, which voters approved by a narrow margin, would be a final solution to the hospital’s financial difficulties. Even with the tax, however, some reductions were needed to conserve money, he said.

Green had been CEO approximately four years and was not under contract. Cassidy said the board had conducted a lengthy and detailed selection process, narrowing the field of CEO candidates down from 20 to seven to three to the final choice, Green. At the time, some other candidates said they would require a contract, but Green did not. Cassidy said it was perceived as a benefit at the hospital that Green did not require a contact, and it showed that he was comfortable and that all parties were happy with one another.

The termination comes at a time when Riverside and all hospitals are facing critical issues, Cassidy said.

“Everybody’s having an awful hard time, not just with finances, but with the changes in medical care and delivery of medical care,” he said. “So there are a lot of changes going on that have to be addressed immediately.”

In addition to that, Cassidy said, the hospital now has to actively seek a permanent replacement for the CEO, and he expects the process will begin soon. He said Mizell’s knowledge and background in the hospital field have prepared her to lead Riverside in the interim.

Cassidy concluded by saying the board’s “common interest is the best interest of the hospital, so that it best serves the community and the hospital district that we’re obligated to serve with as little disruption as possible.”

The discussions on the hospital’s administrators stem back to the board’s February meeting, when a number of employees took the opportunity to express their concerns about Riverside and one called for Green and Mizell’s resignation.

In a special meeting held March 7, further comments were made by employees, and the board went into executive session to discuss the professional competencies of the CEO and CFO. Frustrating the capacity crowd that waited through a 3 ?-hour executive session, the board reached no decision that night and chose to defer the discussion to the regular meeting Thursday.

During his report on the Finance and Capital Planning Committee, Sylvest discussed the ongoing bad debt problem facing the hospital. He said bad debt write offs for February totaled $330,000.