Archive for Friday, May 4, 2007

Legal questions surround KU Hospital board

May 4, 2007

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If this were poker, it would be a stacking-the-deck controversy.

Questions are swirling at the Statehouse whether Kansas University Provost Richard Lariviere has been illegally appointed to serve on the KU Hospital Authority Board during a time when the board is wading into controversial negotiations regarding a proposed affiliation between KU Medical Center and St. Luke's Hospital in Kansas City, Mo.

Senate Majority Leader Derek Schmidt, R-Independence, said the questions surrounding the board, which oversees an annual budget of more than half a billion dollars, are troubling.

He said he's contemplating requesting a legal opinion from the attorney general regarding the Lariviere issue, and what legal requirements Gov. Kathleen Sebelius must follow when making appointments to the board.

"We have to get an answer to these legal questions," Schmidt said.

Lariviere in December was appointed as an ex officio voting member of the board of the Kansas City, Kan., hospital. Ex officio members serve on the board based upon their jobs within the KU system. The state statute creating the hospital board lists six ex officio positions on the board. But neither of Lariviere's two positions - KU provost and executive vice chancellor of the university - is listed.

Instead, the statute lists the KU chancellor, executive vice chancellor of KUMC, executive dean of the KU School of Medicine, chief of staff of the KU Hospital medical staff, president of the KU Hospital Authority and dean of the KU School of Nursing.

House Speaker Melvin Neufeld, R-Ingalls, said Lariviere doesn't have the legal authority to serve on the board as an ex officio member. He said the fact Lariviere is on the board is a sign that an effort is under way to "stack" the board in a manner that will give more control of the hospital's financial resources to KU Chancellor Robert Hemenway and his staff.

"I think this is basically being driven by some of the charitable folks in the Kansas City area who are much more concerned about building a research center that gives Kansas City a big name than maintaining the quality of medical education for Kansas," Neufeld said. "It is more of a regional group that wants to be multistate and make the university multistate instead of making the university the best medical education facility in the country to serve Kansas."

Neufeld said the governor has gone along with the efforts. He said the hospital's financial reserves are attractive to members of KUMC who want to be part of building new research facilities.

Neufeld said he's not against promoting additional research, but is concerned that if revenues are "stripped" from the hospital that it may not have the resources to build additional treatment and educational facilities.

"We would like to see an expansion of research, too, but we're not willing to sacrifice medical education in the name of research," Neufeld said.

Governor's response

Nicole Corcoran, Sebelius' press secretary, declined to specifically comment on Neufeld's allegations.

Corcoran, though, said the governor did not directly appoint Lariviere to the board. The statute does not call for the governor to appoint ex officio members. Instead, the governor was simply notified via a letter from the hospital board that Lariviere was now serving as an ex officio member in the "executive vice chancellor" position.

As for whether the statute allows Lariviere to serve as an ex officio member, the governor is taking a hands-off approach. Corcoran said because the governor is not responsible for appointing ex officio members, she has accepted in good faith the judgment of the KU Hospital board that Lariviere is eligible to serve in the position. Unlike all other appointments to the board, ex officio members are not subject to Senate confirmation.

Dennis McCulloch, director of public and government relations for KU Hospital, confirmed that George Farha, chairman of the board, sent a letter to Sebelius notifying her that Lariviere was now filling an ex officio position. But McCulloch said Lariviere was placed on the board because Sebelius had requested it.

There was one open ex officio position because Barbara Atkinson has two of the six positions listed in the statute. She is both executive vice chancellor of KUMC and executive dean of the KU School of Medicine.

Corcoran declined to specifically comment on whether the governor requested Lariviere to be on the board. Corcoran did say that the governor met with members of the hospital leadership in 2006, and did discuss individuals who may be interested in serving on the board.

McCulloch said the board is no longer certain that the Lariviere appointment was appropriate.

"Subsequent to inquires, the board is reviewing whether this position meets the requirements of the statute," McCulloch said.

Other appointments

The Lariviere position is not the only one in question on the 19-member board. Neufeld and Schmidt both have expressed concerns about how at least five other nominations are being handled by the governor.

There are five positions on the board that Sebelius has been asked by the hospital board's nominating committee to fill. In 2006, the hospital board submitted nominees to Sebelius for the five positions. But McCulloch said Sebelius asked the board to withdraw the names and replace them with individuals she was interested in appointing. McCulloch said that included Lt. Gov. Mark Parkinson and Bob Regnier, a Johnson County banker.

McCulloch said the board agreed to withdraw the names in an effort to create good will with the governor.

"The board was looking for support from the governor and others to create a win-win-win situation with the affiliation negotiations and was hoping that cooperation would lead to achieving that goal," McCulloch said.

Schmidt said he's not convinced the governor has handled the nomination process appropriately. Whether the governor acted properly is in question, he said, because the statute says the governor "shall" appoint members from the list of nominees given to her by the board's nominating committee.

Schmidt said a review of the governor's handling of the nominations would be part of any attorney general opinion that he may seek.

Neufeld said the governor's handling of the nominations is further evidence that she is trying to stack the board.

"I think the question here is, philosophically, do you want the chancellor to run the hospital?" Neufeld asked. "That is the direction the governor is heading with this."

Neufeld said Kansans should be concerned with that prospect because the hospital was in well-documented financial trouble when the university was last in direct control of it. The hospital board was created in 1998 as a means to allow the hospital to operate independently from the university.

"If you stack the board with people from the chancellor's office, you'll have happen what happened previously - the hospital was raided for its assets and became bankrupt, or virtually bankrupt," Neufeld said.

New nominees

The governor now has a new set of nominees to consider for the five positions. Another slate of five names was submitted to the governor in December: Farha, Robert Honse, former state legislator David Kerr, Robert Regnier and Parkinson, the lieutenant governor. All but Regnier are past board members.

But the governor has not acted on that slate of nominees either. Corcoran said there is a good reason. She said the state statute requires the board's nomination committee to submit at least two and no more than three names for each position. Corcoran said the board should have submitted at least 10 names to give the governor the required number of choices.

Corcoran also said the governor is hesitant to make any changes to the board because it is actively involved in negotiations regarding its affiliation with KUMC. The hospital board also is monitoring affiliation discussions between KUMC and St. Luke's Hospital.

McCulloch said the board disagrees with the governor's interpretation of the statute. He said two names were submitted for each of the five seats on the board. He said some individuals were nominated for more than one position, a practice deemed acceptable by the governor until last year.

Defining what the governor can and can't do when appointing members to the board will be an important issue because there is a backlog of appointments to be made. Of the 13 members who are appointed by the governor, eight of them are serving past the expiration date of their terms.

The state statute allows for members to serve past their term's expiration date if no one else has been appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate.

Who's on?

Another haze hanging over the hospital is a disagreement among the board and the governor's office about who actually serves on the board. The governor contends that Parkinson is still a member of the board.

But McCulloch said Parkinson submitted his resignation, and the board accepted it, in June 2006. Parkinson confirmed that he submitted a resignation letter to the board, but the governor contends that because the resignation letter was never forwarded to her office, Parkinson still serves on the board.

McCulloch said the hospital's leadership does not agree.

"Neither the statute nor the authority's bylaws requires that resignations of directors be forwarded to the governor," McCulloch said. "Previous board members have resigned, and Mark Parkinson's resignation was no different."

Parkinson has attended one board meeting since submitting the resignation letter. He did address the board as a guest but did not vote, McCulloch said.

Schmidt said he would ask the attorney general to review the Parkinson situation as part of any attorney general opinion that he may request. Schmidt also said he wants clarification about what role Regnier is allowed to play on the board. Regnier is one of the five names forwarded to Sebelius to fill a seat on the board.

McCulloch said Regnier has been attending board meetings, and has been allowed to go into closed-door executive sessions that are closed to the public. He has not been allowed to vote on matters, though.

Because Regnier has not been officially appointed by the governor nor confirmed by the Senate, Schmidt said he had questions about how much he should be allowed to participate in board activities.

Schmidt - who as Senate majority leader oversees the confirmation process in the Senate - said all the questions involving the board will have to be answered before the Senate takes up the nominations.

"We're not going to take any actions on nominees until we know they have been lawfully submitted," Schmidt said.

Comments

WilburM 8 years ago

Who is being disingeneous here? To quote the story:

"The governor now has a new set of nominees to consider for the five positions. Another slate of five names was submitted to the governor in December: Farha, Robert Honse, former state legislator David Kerr, Robert Regnier and Parkinson, the lieutenant governor. All but Regnier are past board members. But the governor has not acted on that slate of nominees either. Corcoran said there is a good reason. She said the state statute requires the board's nomination committee to submit at least two and no more than three names for each position. Corcoran said the board should have submitted at least 10 names to give the governor the required number of choices."

That's crucial. The governor gets to choose AMONG possible nominees, not appoint a slate. Who's trying to dictate the nominees here?

Indeed, to what extent is this even news, save for the willingness of the LJW to write ceaselessly about this "issue." In the end, if the KC metro area is to house a major medical enterprise (cancer center, biosciences industry), there is going to have to be a large-scale, bistate operation. Otherwise, we just retreat to a insular, smallish perspective and leave the really big bucks and big advances in science/medicine to our neighbors (CO, NE) and folks on the coasts. That's what these decisions are all about.

LJD230 8 years ago

Neither the KU Medical School nor the KU Hospital enjoy national reputations. The school is, at best, mediocre and the hospital is not listed in any recognized rankings.

The University should be congratulated for their efforts in seeking collaborations and affiliations which will enhance medical education and research. The people of Kansas will benefit by gaining a supply of better trained physicains that have been exposed to a greater variety of clinical situations. If this initiative fails, the reputation of the medical school and hospital will be marginalized as institituions in Kansas City seek affiliation with nationally recognized schools of excellence such as Washington University and the University of Texas.

Do the people of Kanas really want an inferior medical school that is micromanaged by politicians in Topeka? Doubtful.

Uhlrick_Hetfield_III 8 years ago

Methinks the Kansas governor is a Missouri *. It's amazing how soon these politicians sell out. In this case, I think the addition of Mark Parkinson was the death knell of honesty for Sebelius administration. She took him in to get the Johnson County/KCMO money and wound up with all the baggage that went with it, including this attempt to loot our Kansas institutions for the benefit of a few Missouri bigwigs.

This is truly sickening, and what's even more sickening, is that this is the only newspaper with the integrity to pursue this. Don't let Sebelius' stooges drive you guys off this story. It's about time someone wrote about the crooks - of both parties in this state.

yme 8 years ago

I keep reading this term "micromanaged" but I just don't understand it. How is it that legislators want to guarantee the protection of the hospital during these negotiations with out-of-state carpetbaggers micromanaging. If anyone is being disingenuous here, it is Sebelius. She knows who can and cannot be appointed to the board. She knows who the folks are that are sincere about negotiating. She's the one being influenced by the big-monied power brokers from the Missouri side. And for all of you who continue to say this will make a great research institution if St. Luke's is added, riddle me this: Why St. Luke's? It has no cancer program of its own to speak of. Many hospitals in KC on both sides of the line have far better reputations and programs for clinical cancer care, including Research, North Kansas City and St. Joseph's. Every other organization that has tried to affiliate with St. Luke's has come out on the short end of the stick (ask the folks at Shawnee Mission about the kind of corporate partners St. Luke's is.) Some people need to stop thinking about what politician is saying what and instead focus on what they are saying. Even fools are right once in a while and even great leaders have blindspots. Don't be so quick to label this one as Governor vs. legislature or Democrat vs. Republican. There's enough praise and criticism to go around on both sides, but this is, bottom line, a very dangerous proposition and could have a major impact on future state budgets and future state healthcare programs.

Jackson 8 years ago

Franklin Murphy was the last KU Chancellor capable of running the whole "show".

yourworstnightmare 8 years ago

Wow, Melvin Neufeld is clueless. He seems to thnk research can be separated from the success of KUMC as a hospital and teaching facility. Furthermore, he views research as a boogeyman actually detracting from other KUMC missions. Research is what makes medical schools and universities great and renowned. Research is what brings the best and brightest to an institution, who then teach and provide medical service. It is depressing that such ignorance is making decisions about these matters.

What a clueless dolt. Then again, par for the course for the Kansas legislature.

Uhlrick_Hetfield_III 8 years ago

Nightmare, before you make an ass of yourself with your silly ad hominem attacks on Neufeld you might go read the many fine columns written by Dolph Simons and also the related news articles. If you had, you would know that your comments don't even touch on the issue at hand.

yourworstnightmare 8 years ago

Hetfield,

In what way am I wrong? These are the Neufeld statements on which I am basing my criticisms. Neufeld said:

"I think this is basically being driven by some of the charitable folks in the Kansas City area who are much more concerned about building a research center that gives Kansas City a big name than maintaining the quality of medical education for Kansas. It is more of a regional group that wants to be multistate and make the university multistate instead of making the university the best medical education facility in the country to serve Kansas." (an attack on Jim and Virginia Stowers, those "charitiable folks".)

and

"Neufeld said he's not against promoting additional research, but is concerned that if revenues are "stripped" from the hospital that it may not have the resources to build additional treatment and educational facilities. "We would like to see an expansion of research, too, but we're not willing to sacrifice medical education in the name of research," Neufeld said.

Old Melvin just doesn't get it. Without research, KUMC will never be a top notch educational and hospital facility.

Make your argument, Hetfield, or pipe down.

Uhlrick_Hetfield_III 8 years ago

Go read the articles, your ignorance is showing. Either that, or go back to one of the other threads where the children play.

oldgoof 8 years ago

In dealing with complex or new issues, we all deal in ad hominem analysis, at least in part. It is not necessarily invalid or inaccurate just because it has a Latin name.

yourworstnightmare 8 years ago

Hetfield, Nice argument. You are an empty shell, as I suspected. All bark and no bite.

This is a disturbing trend. The antti-science rhetoric being spewed by Melvin does not serve the state well.

KSMeadowlark 7 years, 12 months ago

Follow the money:

Richard Lariviere's wife, Janis, gave $1000 to Sebelius on 10/24/2006.

Mark Parkinson is Lt. Governor. After switching parties, Parkinson started giving big to Democrats: - 10/26/2005 Paul Morrison, $2000 from Mark Parkinson and $2000 from wife, Stacy - 5/12/2006 Kathleen Sebelius, $1000 from Mark Parkinson - 8/2/2006 Paul Morrison, $2000 from Mark Parkinson and $2000 from Stacy

Bob Regnier, a Republican for Moore, and a contributor to Kansas Traditional Republican Majority, gave big, along with wife Ann: - 11/27/2002 $250 to Kathleen Sebelius - 22/6/2005 $1000 to Paul Morrison - 11/13/2005 $2000 to Kathleen Sebelius by Bob and $2000 by wife, Ann - 3/19/2006 $1000 to Paul Morrison by Bob - 6/25/2600 $2000 to Paul Morrison by Ann - 8/30/2006 $2000 to Paul Morrison from Bob and $2000 from Ann - 9/15/2006 $2000 to Kathleen Sebelius from Bob and $200 from Ann

Would "Uncle Bob" keep all his bank customers if they knew Regnier only supports candidates who will raise taxes?

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