By ROB W. ANDERSON
Members of the Northeastern Oklahoma Community Health Centers board of directors held a special meeting Monday to discuss adding or removing members, but wound up tabling any action.
A special meeting was held earlier this month, and concerns about bylaw compliance when adding a new board member became a point of discussion. The NeoHealth board of directors is required to have between nine and 25 members, and at the time of the special meeting, there were only nine members. Fifty-one percent of the board’s members must also use NeoHealth services.
Five board members were reportedly NeoHealth clients at the time of the special meeting, while four were noted as not receiving medical services from NeoHealth. According to the Governing Board Handbook used by NeoHealth, 80 percent of board members should also be at or below federal poverty guidelines to reflect a fair representation of the clientele it serves.
The board lost two of its members – Board Chair Peggy Cotten and member Dr. Sara Brown – at Monday’s special meeting.
Board Vice Chair Bobbie Davis said she wanted to share the letters to protect the board’s forthrightness.
“We’re not in compliance, anyway, as I understand at this point, because of the number of non-users. Now I’m just repeating what I’ve been told from entities that are well more advised on these issues, and with some [issues] pointed out the other day,” Davis said. “I feel reluctant to not act on these in the sense that it might give some people the idea we’re trying to hide the fact that they have resigned and not act on it. And I don’t want the board’s integrity questioned.”
Davis read the resignation letters of both Cotten and Brown as members of the board, NeoHealth staff and others in attendance listened. Dated Nov. 14 and addressed to interim NeoHealth CEO Angel Westbrook, Cotten’s words thanked the involved parties, while noting reason for her resignation: “It is time for me to tend to my health issues and those of my family.”
“My sincere wish is for each of you to keep your sights on Neo’s vision and mission and work together to successfully strengthen Neo in every way,” Cotten told the other board members.
Brown’s letter was dated Nov. 17, addressed to Westbrook, and noted her decision to resign after six years “has come after much thought and soul-searching.”
The board unanimously accepted both resignations. Davis will serve in Cotten’s role as board officer until the December election, thus creating the need for a new vice chair. Dr. Breanna Batey nominated board member Rick Ward as vice chair, while no other nominations were fielded.
Davis then made the motion to table the addition of new board members until the regular Nov. 27 meeting so members could have the proper amount of time to review board information and other related documents that pertain to serving.
“One of the forms is an allocation of authority and responsibility, which outlines what the board’s responsibilities are. There are some sample forms that have to do with code of ethics. There’s also a community health center board member checklist,” she said. “I would like to make a motion that we as a board review these individual forms and papers and not make a decision on accepting new members until the [regular] meeting. That’s eight days. Some of this may help us in our decision to set new board members. Fifteen to 20 minutes is not enough time for each of us to review these, especially if this is information we haven’t seen. Some of us don’t have access to email and had 20 or 30 minutes to peruse this information. I feel it’s important that we go over this information so we can make an educated decision.”
Three new board applicants were introduced at the start of meeting, and Davis included the need to review their applications along with the “forms and papers.” The applicants included Laney Williams, Ken Collins and Wayne Kindell. Sen. Jim Wilson was also at the meeting and has reportedly been tapped for a board slot.
“I think with this information eight days might make a difference in how we handle that election. We’ll be more educated,” said Davis. “We’ll maybe have more time to consider things, especially these new applications that bring us more persons to consider.”