— By CHRISTIN COYNE
The Parker County Hospital District Board of Directors recently delayed appointing a board member to represent Precinct 2 after one board member voiced concerns about the process used to select a candidate from the applicant pool.
The person recommended for appointment by a committee of board members and district personnel to fill an unexpired term formerly held by Precinct 2 representative Jim Austin, who died unexpectedly in January, did not make an appearance before the full board during discussion of appointment.
The board’s attorney stated during the Feb. 27 meeting that the board used a committee interview process to keep the candidates – being considered for a public board – from having to answer questions in a public venue.
Recent board meetings have been attended by just five directors, and the three board members – Mike Carter, Melvin Woody and board president David Barbrick – who were on the committee that interviewed the six candidates could have voted in their recommendation for appointment during the public meeting.
The board is composed of seven members elected to four-year terms and oversees nearly $11 million in annual property tax revenue. The hospital district owns Weatherford Regional Medical Center and is responsible for providing EMS services across the county, medical care at Campbell Clinic, indigent medical care assistance and administers an immunization program.
Though only one board of directors position is vacant, at-large board member Nolan Queen, 87, has not been active for almost a year. Nolan has not attended a meeting since April due to health issues, but he has not resigned.
Barbrick told the board that those whom the committee interviewed were each fantastic.
“The resumés are just unbelievable,” Barbrick said. “We interviewed Tommy Wright, Earl King, Selma Johnson, Russ Authier, Marie Welsh and Gayle Hall. It was a pretty tough decision. We all talked about it a little bit. I think the committee would like to recommend Marie Welsh for that position.”
Board member Jamie Bodiford asked, “Can we not talk about this? Can we go into executive session?”
PCHD Chief Executive Officer Randall Young told the board that Welsh, a native of Alabama, was a retired Peaster teacher and coach who also lived and taught in Arizona and Utah and has a master’s degree. Welsh’s husband is a ferrier and the couple, who have four grown children, own land off Authon Road in northwest Parker County, according to Young.
“Marie is a sharp individual,” Young said. “I spent two hours talking to her on my own and then she came in and visited yesterday. I thought we had six outstanding candidates. I didn’t think we could really go wrong with any of them. And I’m pleased with the selection you are recommending.”
“It’s been a number of years since the district has had to do this but the district has had to do this before,” the district’s attorney, Brian Jackson said. “I think the last time the district filled an unexpired term it took four months maybe to do that and a number of meetings to go through to do that. So the chairman appropriately decided that the process would be that a committee would be appointed to personally interview the candidates because a committee can do that without being in a regular meeting. And then, as the agenda indicates, there is a possible vote. That does not have to be today.
"That is at your discretion whether or not to do that. The committee has made recommendation but certainly for the full board, you can take those resumés and look at those and hear what the recommendation is today. You can decide to vote today or you can decide to vote next month. There is no requirement that that position be filled within any certain amount of time.”
There is no exception to discuss the appointment in executive session and must be done in open session, Jackson said.
“I was hoping that we would all interview,” Bodiford said. “I’ll be really honest.”
“I think this is a big decision and I think all of us should maybe meet some of the [candidates],” Bodiford said, adding that she felt it was “thrown upon” her.
“Well, the reality is that if all of you meet with them, it must be done in open session and in a meeting to do that, so that’s why a committee was appointed,” Jackson said. “So that was why a committee was appointed – so it does not have to be done in open session. The board can choose however they want to do it but, ordinarily, the question and answer session is not done in front of the newspaper and the community and all of those types of things because people are not as apt to apply if they think, ‘I’ve got to give an interview in front of the newspaper.’ When I do that, you get more candidates.”
Bodiford asked to table the appointment until next month.
Carter said he tended to agree that candidates for the public office not be interviewed in a public meeting.
“I don’t mind Jamie saying what she said,” Woody said. “But nothing’s going to change as far as I know if we put this for another month.”
“Well I would like to meet the person that you are recommending,” Bodiford said. “I know everybody on here except for this one person. And I think we also have to have a board member that is well known in the community who people feel comfortable coming to as a constituent.”
“If Jamie wants to meet with them separate, I don’t have any objection,” Woody said. “But as far as the decision of the committee, there is three of us and there’s five people here. Three of us have already said we’re going to pick them and it’s not going to change next month.”
“This is such an important position, I just feel like I would like to meet some of these candidates,” Bodiford said. “I think it’s only fair.”
Floyd suggested narrowing down the candidates to two or three and having them speak in front of the board, though at least one other board member indicated they did not want to do that.
“If they are going to be serving on a board and in the public eye, then they better start getting used to it,” Bodiford said.
Carter recommended that the board delay the appointment to give Bodiford an opportunity to meet Welsh.