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Trustees surprise commissioners

Hospital board seeks new members despite litigation

By Chris Froese

Montrose Memorial Hospital’s board of directors caught county commissioners by surprise Thursday when it announced it will advertise to fill three board positions, despite ongoing litigation contesting the hospital’s new lease and creation of a larger board.

The new operating lease, announced in October by the hospital board, was to take effect Dec. 27, leasing the medical facility and its property for 50 years to a private nonprofit corporation, Montrose Memorial Hospital Inc., which the board created.

The trustees appointed themselves to the new board of directors of MMHI and raised the number of members from seven to nine.

Now they are seeking applicants for the additional board positions plus one existing vacancy.

The board posted an official notice Wednesday in the hospital administration office, and the notice is set to publish today in the Montrose Daily Press, board member William Bennett said.

The Montrose County Commission was caught unaware by the news Thursday and expressed surprise because of an existing Montrose District Court injunction halting the lease from taking effect.

The commissioners challenged the legality of the lease transfer from the Montrose Memorial Hospital to the newly created MMHI, and a hearing is scheduled for April 12–13 in district court.

Commissioner Ron Henderson said the hospital board’s latest action is disappointing, and Commissioner David White called it a shot across the bow.

“I’m just surprised that they’re taking this action at this time,” Commissioner Gary Ellis said.

The existing board members were appointed by the County Commission.

Under the MMHI bylaws, however, the board is responsible for electing new members when openings exist.

“We wanted to avoid an outside source such as county appointment,” Bennett said.

Montrose County Manager Jesse Smith said his understanding is it is legal for the hospital board to seek and name new board members, but “they cannot make any decisions or access hospital funds until the court addresses this.”

Application packets are available in the hospital administration office at 800 S. Third St. in Montrose.

The deadline to return the completed applications is Feb. 9. Bennett said applicants must reside in Montrose County, sign for the application and pass a background check.

Interviews will be conducted during the week of Feb. 14, and the board of directors will hold elections in a special meeting during the week of March 1, date and time to be announced.

“We want people that are pillars of the community, pillars that are honest people that have the ability to do an honest job,” Bennett said.

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