Bay County commissioners say they don't want to control a local charitable foundation, they just want a seat on the board so they can keep an eye on its business.
Appointments to the Bay Health Foundation board were on the commission's Tuesday agenda. The foundation is the former Bay Medical Center Board of Trustees and manages a trust fund that makes charitable contributions to health related agencies, safeguards the $80 million employee pension fund, and oversees the lease of the hospital to Sacred Heart Health System/LHP Hospital Group. It has no involvement in the operation of the hospital.
By law, the foundation's recommendations of board members must be confirmed by the county. On Tuesday, commissioners approved Harold Bazzell, Andrew Stein and Dr. Frank Merritt but did not confirm longtime foundation board member Tink Warren.
The commission is holding out for a seat to be filled by one of their own – either Chairman George Gainer or Vice Chairman Guy Tunnell. The county already has an appointee on the foundation board – Don Connor – who serves as the trustees' chairman and has two years remaining on his term.
But commissioners have said they are not being kept informed of foundation business.
"I think there are so many things that are still important, especially the pension fund," said Gainer. "We need to monitor that thing and make sure that we know if we've got some kind of impending problems in it or any of the other agreement that were made."
"Our intent is not to control that board of trustees," said Tunnell. "Our intent is to have an earpiece for the county commission so that we know what action is being taken by the board of trustees that impacts what we have to do."
Commissioners cannot remove Connor from the foundation board and hoped he would step aside voluntarily. "I thought that would be the simplest thing to do but that's strictly up to him," said Commissioner Mike Thomas. "The board has made it very clear that's what they would like to see him do," said Gainer.
But Connor told News 13 he has no intention of resigning because fellow trustees recently showed their faith in him by electing him to the chairman's post and he has several projects that he started and wants to complete during his term.
If commissioners fail to confirm a trustee nomination in three tries, they can fill the seat themselves. But Gainer and Tunnell said they don't want to force their way onto the board. "I would imagine long before that became necessary that the hospital board and the commissioners would probably have some conversation and that we would reach an agreement," said Gainer.
"It's already gone on longer than I think it needs to," agreed Tunnell. "Hopefully, today's action will send a message back to their board of trustees that we need to get this thing laid to rest."
Connor said he was surprised that Warren wasn't reappointed to the foundation board but that trustees are probably willing to consider filling her seat with a county commissioner.
The foundation trustees' next meeting is scheduled for January 28.