Hospital Board Holds Secret Meeting Ahead of Terminations
Full Board Not Included
State Senator Weighs In
Alleged New Hires Not Made Public
Legality of Board Practices Questioned
Worry Over Possible Closure Consumes Elected Officials
By Echo Menges, NEMOnews Media Group
Scotland County, MO The Scotland County Hospital District Board of Directors hosted a series of closed session meetings in August during which three hospital administrators were allegedly terminated by the board, a new lawyer was allegedly hired along with a new Chief Financial Officer.
None of these claims have been confirmed by the hospital’s new Chief Executive Officer or board chairperson, nor have they been released to the public.
At least one board member, the board treasurer and longest-running member of the board Bob Neese, is questioning whether two of the three secret meetings were legal and whether the votes taken during those meetings to apparently terminate the hospital Chief Executive Officer Dr. Randy Tobler, Chief Financial Officer Michael Brandon, and Chief of Human Resources Terri Schmitt have any standing because of it. Neese also questions the legality of the alleged hiring of a new lawyer, David Penn, and the alleged appointment of a new CFO, Achim Hoyal.
Neese has also allegded that the board chairperson Lori Fulk and others on the SCH BOD purposefully did not notify two of the six-member board about the special emergency meeting held on August 15, during which it was allegedly decided to terminate the hospital administrators, the CEO, CFO and CHR.
“They had three meetings last week. On August 15, there was a meeting that I did not know was conducted until (August) 16. Four of them on the board met on the (August) 15 (meeting), Monday, had called what they said was an emergency meeting. Joe Doubet and I were not notified of the meeting,” Bob Neese, SCH BOD Treasurer, told the Memphis Democrat/NEMOnews Media Group on August 22.
“Of course it’s purposeful,” said Neese. “It’s right there in the hospital bylaws. Anytime there is a meeting, everyone on the board of directors must be notified. We were told there was a meeting called on (August) 16. I got notified at 12:01 p.m. The meeting was held at 7:00 p.m. Our bylaws also stipulate any special meeting called must have a 24-hour notice. We had already planned for a special board meeting on (August)18, which was to be discussing personnel matters and the possibilities of hiring and firing. That meeting was held. It is a meeting which I went to. I was not there all that long. All of these are in executive session.”
Board member Joe Doubet corroborated Neese’s claims to the Memphis Democrat/NEMOnews Media Group confirming the two board members were left out of the August 15 secret meeting, and that they were told they were not notified about the meeting “for their protection”.
Both board members reported not being told exactly how being left out of the secret meeting was in their interest, or why they would need protection from the proceedings.
“This is all going to have to be talked about and investigated,” said Neese.
State and Local Elected Officials Express Concern Over Board Decisions, Hospital Operations
Missouri State Senator Cindy O’Laughlin (District 18) has expressed concern over the hospital disruptions. Her office is looking into the recent changes and O’Laughlin has been paying close attention since the announcement was first made that a new SCH CEO was installed.
“I know there have been Sunshine requests that have thus far been ignored, or not responded to. That in itself is concerning,” Sen. O’Laughlin told the Memphis Democrat/NEMOnews Media Group.
“My concern is that there have been some dramatic changes in staffing and in board positions and there is no transparency. The hospital is a major employer and many people depend on it. Rural healthcare is a priority for me. I feel that any changes need to be done in an open forum and any changes need to be public. Not a lot of people understand what is going on. I’m also concerned about their employment practices and the legality of those. The hospital needs to be sure the employment changes have been made according to current employment law and the bylaws. I’m not sure those have been followed. This is an area that carries tremendous legal implications.”
Sen. O’Laughlin also questions the legality of any new hires, and whether proper protocols were followed before the SCH BOD added new staff members.
“Who has been hired? Did you advertise the job? How many people applied?” asked Sen. O’Laughlin. “I’m afraid they are making the hospital extremely vulnerable and putting it in danger.”
The Scotland County Commission has expressed concerns of their own over the disruptions at the hospital.
“We are very concerned by this,” said David Wiggins, Scotland County Western District Commissioner during the commission’s regular public meeting on Wednesday morning, August 24. “We do not want the hospital to close. We need it.”
“Yes, we’re all concerned,” concurred Duane Ebeling, Scotland County Presiding Commissioner.
“Very concerned, yes,” concurred Brent Rockhold, Scotland County Eastern District Commissioner.
The commissioners said they had very little information about what was going on at the hospital, and that the new CEO’s husband Derek Weber was doing his best to “keep them in the loop” about what is going on at the hospital. The exact nature of the information being passed from Derek Weber to the Scotland County Commission was not discussed with the Memphis Democrat/NEMOnews Media Group by the commissioners.
“Every time we hear something new, we’re more confused about what’s going on over there,” said Wiggins.
Board Treasurer Turns Whistleblower
The current SCH BOD Treasurer Bob Neese made the following statements to the Memphis Democrat/NEMOnews Media Group over the telephone on Monday morning, August 22.
•I think there are voices in the community that have long held grudges, and they are using this opportunity to basically do a coup. At Wednesday’s meeting, which has to be public knowledge, last Monday’s meeting, Tuesday and Thursday, they are already in violation for not having the minutes.
•Jeff (Davis former SCH Chief Medical Officer) said any meeting that is called – all board members have to be notified. If other members have not been notified, the decisions they made at that meeting (have no standing).
•The meetings were to fire Dr. Tobler. That was at the Monday meeting that they did not notify me and they did not notify Joe Doubet.
•It is only a meeting if everyone has been notified. If two members chose not to come then fine. But we didn’t get notified.
•They said we did that for your protection. I’m the treasurer. No finances come to or near me.
•Joe Doubet was on the SCH Foundation established in 2019 for which we were able to operate the pharmacy and the profits from the pharmacy went into the foundation to be redistributed to the hospital.
•This was done through Lashely Baer, a large legal firm in St. Louis. They deal a lot with hospitals.
•Three things I learned that night was the firing of Dr. Tobler, the hiring of Megan Weber and the hiring of a new lawyer – cutting Lashley Baer out of this as our lawyers and brought in a new lawyer from Quincy – taking him on as our new lawyer.
•David Penn, he’s mostly an employment lawyer and deals with educational and labor disputes. I don’t see in the advertisement as him ever dealing with hospitals. He’s been hired.
•These three decisions – I will try to make the case that they were illegal since we were not informed of the meeting since they wanted to protect us.
•The board president Lori Fulk said there are irregularities with regard to the finances and bank accounts, and they basically developed a conspiracy theory in their mind.
•There is no talking with them. I certainly have attempted to, and to say, wait a minute, this is crazy.
•All there has been is talk. I’ve asked repeatedly for any evidence of any wrongdoing. Show me anything that you’ve found that indicated any wrongdoing. They have not put forward anything. Not only was Dr. Tobler released/fired as CEO, he was shut out of the hospital, his office, and away from his patients as an OBGYN.
•He has pregnant patients he is serving. He had just done a very complicated case. His patient is still in the hospital, and he is prevented from seeing her or anyone else.
•According to our staff bylaws this is illegal.
•The staff should be notified in writing. He got nothing other than we can’t say anything and fired with all privileges removed. That, according to our bylaws, is illegal.
On Saturday morning, August 27 Bob Neese added to his whistleblower remarks to the Memphis Democrat/NEMOnews Media Group via email with the following statements:
•There is a LOT that has happened this week. Joe Doubet, who you spoke with, was asked to go to Bank of Kirksville to sign on an account. He looked at it and saw that Achim Hoyal had signed it. Joe refused to sign.
•Yesterday, I went to same bank, spoke with Sandi Arnold, asking her about accounts and people who are signatories. She refused to give me that information. I told her I am the Board Treasurer and should have that info available. No, “you should ask Meagan or Lori”.
•I asked her to look at all hospital accounts and if I am listed as a signatory. She looked at them all and the answer was “No”. I am not on any of them. That’s all she would say. So, I have been removed without my knowledge or board approval.
•I believe it is a safe bet that if Achim Hoyal is on one, as Joe saw, he’s on all of them. As you know he was introduced as our “New CFO”.
•According to email received yesterday from David Penn, Hoyal is an “employee at will”, does not have a contract, is not the CFO.
•I will forward the correspondence with Penn, the lawyer hired by Lori Fulk, without board approval. AS far as I am concerned he can bill Lori and Meagan for services, not the Hospital.
•I filed a formal complaint with Attorney General’s office. After (State Senator) Cindy (O’Laughlin) made a couple of calls, they have taken action to make this case a priority. I spoke by phone for one hour with Justin Smith, Chief of Staff, yesterday afternoon.
Public Information Requests Have Not Been Adequately Filled/Responded To
The Memphis Democrat/NEMOnews Media Group issued two Missouri Sunshine Law requests to the Scotland County Hospital and SCH CEO Dr. Meagan Weber the day Weber’s appointment and the closure of Memphis Community Pharmacy was announced, August 17. The Sunshine requests were sent electronically by email and hand-delivered to the CEO before the close of the business day.
SCH CEO Weber replied on August 19 with only board-approved minutes from May and June saying that unreleased regular meeting July minutes were not board approved.
It is our belief that all draft minutes and some closed meeting information is open to the public, and has not been turned over in accordance with the Missouri Sunshine Law Chapter 610 of the Missouri Revised Statutes. We are in communication with legal counsel to determine our options for obtaining this information, which may include filing an official complaint with the Missouri Attorney General’s Office.
The NEMOnews Media Group has since filed two additional Sunshine requests specifically asking for the public information from the July meeting(s) minutes, the public portions of the August 15, 16, 18 closed session minutes.
Those requests were expected to be returned by noon on Monday, August 29. NEMOnews Media Group did not receive the requested minutes.
All of these requests and any public information received will be posted to the Memphis Democrat website, memphisdemocrat.com, for our readers as soon as it is reasonably possible.
Scotland County Hospital’s regular August board of directors meeting is scheduled for 5:30pm on Tuesday, August 30.