HULBERT – Two of the founding members of Northeastern Oklahoma Community Health Centers were kicked off the board of directors Tuesday night amid accusations of undermining the company and the board.

Mamie Hall and Beverly Manasco were voted off by other board members at a regularly scheduled meeting at the Hulbert Health Center.

“I’ve taped the meeting, and I’m going to seek legal advice,” said Manasco, following the meeting.

During the nomination committee report, Vice President Linda Crawford said board unity is important to maintaining the public’s trust, but that some members of the board have been undermining other board members and the health center in the community.

“When diverse individuals come together, they bring many different viewpoints to the table,” said Crawford, reading from a report from the Oklahoma Primary Care Association on accountability among board members. “But in the end, the board must agree on what action is best for the health center. Each member must remember the duty of care, loyalty and obedience and accept the board’s decision - even when it differs from his or her own. There is no place on a CHC board for a ‘lone ranger’; this kind of behavior can bring great harm to the health center and subject the rest of the board to unwanted litigation.”

Board members have a legal obligation to voice their opinions during meetings, with any objections to decisions noted in the minutes, but they should not voice their grievances publicly, Crawford said.

Crawford said if a breach occurs, the rest of the board has a duty to take action, even including the dismissal of board members.

“Dealing with errant behavior is not pleasant but is absolutely necessary to protect the board as a whole and the health center,” said Crawford. “If a member fails in his/her duties of care, loyalty and obedience, decisive measures must be taken to correct the situation immediately, which may even result in the culprit’s removal from the board.”

Crawford then listed a number of complaints she had received against Hall, including negative comments about fellow board members; negative comments about CEO Lori Timmons; approaching board members Beverly Runnels and Charles Lile to discuss their votes on a board decision; discussions of board decisions at church; refusal to talk to the board chair; asking the board to violate its own bylaws; and pressuring Timmons to change board decisions.

Hall denied discussing board decisions in church.

“I have not talked to anybody at church about board decisions,” said Hall. “I have not been to church in a while.”

Hall also insisted board members had the right to discuss their decisions with each other.

Manasco asked for the names of people who were making the accusations.

“We live in this community,” said Manasco. “We need to know who is accusing us of these things.”

Runnels said she would verify that Hall and Manasco had approached her about her vote on an issue, which Manasco denied.

“It’s my word against yours,” said Manasco.

Crawford said board members needed to “agree to disagree” and to leave their arguments in the board room, instead of dragging them out into public.

The board voted 7-4 to remove Hall, with one abstaining.

Crawford then listed complaints against Manasco, including the allegation that she had approached Beverly Runnels in public; had held discussions of board material in church; and that she verbally attacked Timmons after a meeting in front of other board members.

“No, I did not,” said Manasco.

Manasco questioned the timing of the vote.

“I wonder why this is all coming up now, when we are questioning how things are being done here,” said Manasco.

The board voted 7-3 to remove Manasco, with one abstaining.

“Everybody is here for a purpose, and none of this has been easy,” said Crawford. “We know the rules and know how to act, and we need to keep our mission statement in mind.”

Manasco warned other board members that if they disagreed with the majority, the same thing could happen to them.

“If you don’t agree, they’re going to vote you off,” said Manasco. “That’s just my opinion, but that’s the way I think. We have been here since this started over six years ago, and we don’t take this lightly.”

At the start of the discussion, Manasco had asked why the matter had not been taken into executive session. Crawford and board President Rick Ward both said the matter didn’t fall under the limited number of items that could be discussed in executive session under the Oklahoma Open Meeting Act.

At the beginning of the meeting, the board also discussed how to handle anonymous letters that were mailed to board members. Ward said he had been advised it was best to just ignore unsigned letters.

“You’re going to ignore the anonymous letter?” said Manasco. “I’m just wondering if it should be read for the full board.”

The letter in question was sent to several board members, State Sen. Jim Wilson and the Daily Press, leveling accusations against Timmons.

“It’s vague,” said board member Daniel Doan. “There are no real references to anything. We shouldn’t respond to vague, slanderous comments from anonymous sources.”

Manasco said people were afraid of losing their jobs, and that might be why the writer didn’t sign the letter.

The board was also presented with an employee satisfaction survey from April 2006, which showed employees are generally satisfied with their jobs.

“A little bit has changed for the better,” said Amy NoEar, director of human resources. “We’re going to look at the concerns the employees still have and work on them.”

The board also voted to change the times of the meeting from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. on the last Tuesday of the month.

Timmons reported to the board that NEOCHC had received a $370,000 grant for three years to provide programs and research for Alzheimer’s caregivers.

The health center is also working with local firefighters to provide free Hepatitis A and B vaccinations.

Mike Pate, facility manager, said he is currently working out an agreement that will have the county fire departments pay for the vaccinations, while the health center will provide the staff to administer the vaccines at no cost.

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