Hospital commission race ramps up with last-minute entry

Posted 10/30/19

The hospital commission race for position 5 is ramping up as supporters of former candidate Cheri Van Hoover have organized a write-in campaign.

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Hospital commission race ramps up with last-minute entry

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The hospital commission race for position 5 is ramping up as supporters of former candidate Cheri Van Hoover have organized a write-in campaign.

Jill Buhler Rienstra was running unopposed as the incumbent for her position, but now she has a touch of competition.

Van Hoover ran for hospital commissioner in 2017, but lost to Bruce McComas who holds a seat now.

Writing in Van Hoover in this year’s election was an idea that sprouted from Al Bergstein, chair of the Jefferson Citizen’s Healthcare Access Group.

A DJ at public radio station KPTZ, he wrote about his thought process in a post on the neighborhood social media platform Nextdoor.

“I had a wild idea last night, looking at my ballot,” he wrote in a post. “I thought, ‘Why no competition in the hospital commissioner races?’ So I called Cheri Van Hoover and asked if I could write in her name.”

Van Hoover has been working with the Citizens for Healthcare Access group and has been a part of implemeting the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) program at the hospital, so victims of assault and rape no longer have to travel to Bremerton for examinations.

“My guess is if you write her in against Jill in position 5 there is an outside shot of her winning,” Bergstein wrote, calling for people to “join the pop up democracy campaign.”

Van Hoover said she was humbled by her supporters’ confidence in her.

“They asked me if they could write my name in, and I said sure, but I learned I had to register formally for their votes to count,” she said.

“I ran last time because of my desire to serve the community. I have knowledge, talents and experience that could be of value on the board. ”

For Rienstra, who has held the position as hospital commissioner since 1995 and has been re-elected three times, surprises in elections don’t phase her much.

“I’m never surprised by what happens in politics,” she said. “It has been nice not having to focus on campaigning, because it has given me time to focus on the important work we’re doing. The downside is that I wasn’t able to debate Cheri or delve into any of the issues she might bring to the table.”

Rienstra is currently chair of the hospital commission. Their current focus is drafting a Master Site Plan, to address how the Jefferson Healthcare campus and other facilities need to look and function over the next 10-15 years in order to provide for current and future district resident, provider, staff and payer needs and expectations.

“We’re in a huge transition nationwide to go to value-based healthcare,” she said. “We’re going from getting paid to mend people, to actually keeping people healthy to begin with. Getting there is going to be a challenge.”

Meanwhile, Matt Ready, a hospital commissioner who is up for re-election in position 3, has been bringing up the issue of public involvement in commission affairs. Despite running unopposed, Ready is eager to get the public’s opinion on the issue.

“There is a belief that seems to have taken control of the entire public hospital district industry- the belief that a public hospital district is only ‘pseudo governmental’ and therefore does not and should not receive the same status and protections of free speech during the open public board meetings,” he wrote in a post on Nextdoor. “In fact I was asked at the board retreat October 14 to keep the discussion of the board members at that open public meeting “confidential” even though we were not in executive session.”

According to Rienstra, this was merely a miscommunication. All the commission’s meetings are recorded and archived. This particular meeting is available on Jefferson Healthcare’s website for members of the public to download and listen to.

“We don’t have to record meetings, but it is our policy to do so,” Rienstra said.

Ready writes books about transparency in public office using transcripts of commission meetings. In the past, he has requested to record meetings for his own records, but was discouraged from doing so because any record taken by a commission member must be archivable and subject to discovery for public records requests. Since the commission already archives their own recordings, Rienstra said Ready was asked not to record the meeting.

The Leader reached out to Ready for more comment on the issue but did not receive a response by press time.

Comments

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Tom Thiersch

"All the commission’s meetings are recorded and archived." Oh? I recall a retreat where former commissioner DeLeo walked out and the meeting was cancelled because Mr. Ready wanted it to be recorded and DeLeo did not.

Perhaps the situation has improved? I hope so, but from the sound of it, the Commission's insistence that only their "official" recordings should be made leaves me feeling uneasy.

Calling a meeting a "retreat" is archaic and inappropriate, and can lead the participants to the erroneous belief that the meeting is not as open as other meetings of the Commission. Under our state's law, a meeting is either Regular or Special or Emergency. The Commissioners regularly waste public money by traveling to remote locations so that they can meet out of view of the public. That practice that needs to stop.

Under the Open Public Meetings Act, every person -- including the members of the Commission -- has a right to record any open public meeting. Mr. Ready has every right to make his personal recordings, and the other members should just get over it.

Mr. Ready is to be applauded for his support for open government, and for resisting the nonsense that anything said during a public meeting outside of an executive session is subject to "confidentiality".

Wednesday, October 30, 2019
Jill Buhler Rienstra

Regarding the issues Mr. Thiersch raises, I post this message to clarify Jefferson Healthcare board policy as it relates to public meetings.

We record and archive all on-site commission meetings. Off-site meetings are not recorded. There is no legal requirement to record meetings at all.

Anyone may legally record any public meeting. However, if a commissioner records a meeting, it becomes a public record, subject to the Open Public Records Act which mandates it must be archived and readily available for anyone submitting a public records request. For this reason, the MRSC (Municipal Research and Services Center) advises against the use of personal electronic devices to record a meeting, stating: “Use only agency-issued e-devices to conduct agency business. By doing so, you allow your agency to properly retain its public records and locate those records in response to a PR request.” This advice has been verified by our own attorney. Failure to comply with rules that apply to production and retention of e-records and use of e-devices can be costly: Clallam County settled a public records request lawsuit for $518,000 in 2016. We remind commissioners of this exposure and ask them to voluntarily comply with legal advice.

All of our meetings are open to the public and we carefully follow legal procedures. Retreats are special meetings and are also open to the public, noticed to the press and, if on site, recorded. The recordings of those and all other on-site meetings are readily available on our website: www.jeffersonhealthcare.org. For access, go to “About,” “Commission,” and scroll down to “Agendas and Minutes” where you will find links to the recordings, including the October 14 meeting referenced by Mr. Ready in his email.

Thursday, October 31, 2019