After two weeks, Heartland still silent on who is leading the nonprofit

photo by: Ashley Hocking

The entrance to Heartland Community Health Center, 346 Maine St., Suite 150, is shown Friday, Jan. 26, 2018.

It appears a local nonprofit — one that is in the middle of a multimillion-dollar building project — has a new chief executive officer, despite the nonprofit’s lack of communication about the change.

It has been two weeks since the Journal-World first reported that it was unclear who was leading Heartland Community Health Center. Since that time, Heartland has not made any statements about its leadership, but one of the nonprofit’s partners told the Journal-World a new person appears to be in charge.

Robyn Coventon was last reported to be the chief executive officer of Heartland Community Health Center, but Coventon has not responded to inquiries about whether she is still serving in her role. It is also unclear whether Heartland’s chief administrative officer, Lucas Houk, is still serving in his position.

The Journal-World visited Heartland’s office in person twice this week to try to speak to an administrator, but was turned away both times. On Tuesday, the Journal-World was told to direct any questions to Julie Branstrom, a Heartland employee. Branstrom never responded to the Journal-World’s email.

On Thursday, the Journal-World was once again turned away. When asked if Branstrom was in a meeting and if she would be available later, the Journal-World was told that no administrators would talk to the Journal-World at this time.

Heartland is in the midst of a multimillion-dollar project: building a new clinic on West Sixth Street. The Journal-World asked the owner of the land on which the clinic is being built about Heartland’s leadership.

Tom Dobski, who owns the land with his wife, Marilyn Dobski, said he believed that a woman named Julie was the acting CEO at this time and that Julie had been attending the construction meetings. Attempts to confirm whether Julie Branstrom is the acting CEO of Heartland were not successful.

Dobski said construction was progressing on schedule and that Heartland was about to launch a capital campaign to raise $3 million for the interior work for the new clinic. He also said he was not concerned about the health of the nonprofit.

“I have all the confidence in the world that the Heartland group is going to move forward and help this community in a grander scale,” he said. He said he and his wife have no concerns about the direction in which Heartland’s board is going.

Dobski said he did not know why Heartland has not told the public who is running the organization, nor why it appears the former CEO, Coventon, is no longer serving in her position.

In addition to its ongoing building project, Heartland merged with pediatric health care provider Panda Pediatrics in January.

When the Journal-World stopped by Heartland’s office on Thursday, the Journal-World requested a copy of the nonprofit’s IRS Form 990, which includes a nonprofit’s financial statements and list of employees. The Journal-World was not provided a copy of the nonprofit’s 990 form in person. Federal law requires that the public be able to inspect a nonprofit’s 990 during business hours.

The Journal-World then requested a copy of the nonprofit’s most recent Form 990 from Branstrom via email. Another member of Heartland’s team, Rachel Hartford, sent the Journal-World the nonprofit’s 2019 Form 990. The form stated that Coventon was the CEO in 2019 and that the organization’s total revenue was $7.3 million and that the organization’s total expenses were about $7 million.

This is not the first time there has been secrecy surrounding the nonprofit’s leadership.

In March of 2018, Heartland’s previous CEO, Jon Stewart, was suspended from his position after a unanimous vote from Heartland’s board of directors. Heartland never made clear the reason for Stewart’s departure, despite multiple inquiries from the Journal-World.

Heartland is a federally qualified health center that serves Douglas County and surrounding areas with primary medical care and other health services and assistance programs. The federal designation makes Heartland eligible for significant amounts of public funding. Many of Heartland’s patients are uninsured, underinsured or otherwise medically underserved. The clinic offers a sliding scale of fees to make health care more affordable.


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