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Archive for Saturday, May 19, 2007

KU hospital Provost can’t be on board, AG says

May 19, 2007

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— Attorney General Paul Morrison said Kansas University Provost Richard Lariviere cannot serve as an ex officio voting member of the KU Hospital Authority.

"The answer is clearly no," Morrison wrote in a letter to KU Hospital officials that was released Friday.

Lariviere will step off the board, KU spokeswoman Lynn Bretz said, but the school may have thrown the controversy into a new area by declaring that KU Medical Center chief Barbara Atkinson will fill two positions on the board, those as vice chancellor of KUMC and dean of the School of Medicine.

Dennis McCulloch, a spokesman for KU Hospital, said attorneys were researching the question of whether Atkinson would have two votes.

"We may be back at the attorney general's office," McCulloch said. "The key thing is to make sure we are in compliance with the law."

The membership of the KU Hospital Authority board has come under scrutiny against the backdrop of a fierce battle between top KU officials and KU Hospital leaders.

Lariviere, Atkinson and other KU leaders want KUMC to form a partnership with St. Luke's Hospital in Kansas City, Mo., saying it will increase life sciences research in the area and help KU attain national status as a cancer treatment center.

But KU Hospital, which is partnered with KUMC, has said a medical school-St. Luke's affiliation will hurt KU Hospital and have no effect on attaining national cancer center designation.

Board mistake

Earlier this month, hospital leaders removed Lariviere from the board, saying state statutes didn't allow him to serve as an ex officio voting member. McCulloch said Lariviere had been mistakenly put on the board by board leaders last year.

At that time, Lariviere contended only Gov. Kathleen Sebelius could remove him, and that he intended to attend future board meetings and hoped to be allowed to vote on matters.

The hospital authority is governed by a 19-member board of directors. Thirteen represent the public and are appointed by the governor. The remaining six members are ex officio voting members, meaning they are members by virtue of their office.

Those offices don't include the KU provost, Morrison said.

"As the governor's authority to appoint is limited to the 13 members who are representatives of the general public, any purported appointment by the governor of an ex officio member has no legal validity," Morrison said.

Sebelius' office has said the governor did not appoint Lariviere to the board. She had simply acknowledged the board's appointment of Lariviere, and took in "good faith" that he was legally eligible to serve, her office said.

The six ex officio voting members of the board are required to be 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 authority and dean of the KU School of Nursing.

Atkinson is both executive vice chancellor of KUMC and dean of the School of Medicine.

"We take this to mean that Dr. Atkinson must occupy two positions on the board," said Bretz, the KU spokeswoman.

McCulloch said whether that means Atkinson has more than one vote on the board "has not been addressed by the board." The hospital's attorneys are researching the matter, he said.

Other questions

The Lariviere position wasn't the only one in question on the 19-member board. Some state lawmakers have expressed concern about five positions on the board that Sebelius was asked to fill last year by the hospital board's nominating committee.

A slate of five names was submitted to the governor in December: board chairman George Farha, Robert Honse, former state legislator David Kerr, Johnson County banker Robert Regnier and Lt. Gov. Mark Parkinson. All but Regnier are past board members.

The governor has not acted on that slate of nominees.

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.

Parkinson submitted his resignation, and the board accepted it, in June 2006. However, he still serves on the board.

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.

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