Board can undo harm
Last week our community witnessed the summary firing of Joe Stewart, the CEO of Sierra View District Hospital, one of this community’s most important institutions. Joe had been in place barely a year after a nationwide search. He took over when the hospital’s reputation was at an all time low and, after only a year, was well on his way to rebuilding community respect for the hospital.
I do not dispute the board’s authority to hire and fire the CEO. However, this public spectacle of an inept firing is unworthy of our community. Even if there were performance issues, the board could have structured a 60- to 90-day period during which specific outcomes, priorities, working relationships and communication issues could have been worked through. Simultaneously, the board could have solicited stakeholder input. If at the end of that period, there were insoluble issues, then a termination might have been justified. More likely, whatever had been problematic would have been corrected.
Instead, we are faced with an extended period of temporary leadership, accelerated erosion of community trust in the board and the hospital itself, and inability of the hospital foundation to raise money. As taxpayers we are faced with another expensive nationwide search, buying out the remainder of Joe Stewart’s contract and paying salary and relocation costs for another new CEO. I’ll bet this comes to well over $2 million dollars we wouldn’t have to spend if only the board had taken a more deliberative approach in the first place.
Is it too late to fix this mess? No. The board must redeem its obligation to the community by reinstating Joe Stewart, by working in good faith to resolve issues and by inviting the community to dialogue on how this tax-supported institution should move forward. Regardless of outcome, the board must restructure its direct relationship with senior staff so that ultimately whoever is CEO can unambiguously act as CEO. To my way of thinking, the board can do no less.
Juliet B. Allen
Oak Hill Ranch