CIBOLA COUNTY - “I suggest for the county commission and the hospital board to meet without myself, the hospital CEO and attorneys in order to iron out the differences,” said County Manager Scott Vinson early Thursday morning. “I am part of the problem because I have no trust in Mr. Cochran (the Cibola General Hospital CEO),” he added.
The county and the hospital are at odds again and this time it came down to a confrontation between the county manager, Cochran and his board on Dec. 2 during a special meeting called by the hospital.
According to Vinson, he, county attorney Randolph Collins and Commission Chairman Eddie Michael met with the Cochran and hospital Board Chairperson Ann Mattila two weeks ago and agreed to meet at the hospital's next regular monthly meeting on Dec. 7 to discuss contractual matters between the two parties. In the meantime, the hospital board scheduled a special closed session for Wednesday, Dec. 2, to discuss contractual matters. The hospital did not advise the county of the meeting, however, Vinson caught word of the meeting and attended it. The hospital published the special meeting in the Dec. 1 Beacon, but did not add the reason for the meeting, 'contractual matters,' and therefore was in violation of the Open Meetings Act in which the county requires in its current agreement with the hospital.
Before the meeting Vinson met with Mattila and Cochran, advising them that they should not have the meeting because they were in violation of the agreement with the county and were also violating the Open Meetings Act. “They violated the spirit of trust,” said Vinson.
The meeting was supposed to start at 6 p.m. and ended up starting at 6:43 p.m. At 6:45 Mattila asked for a motion to go into executive session and board member Lawrence Sanchez motioned and Ida Chavez seconded, and according to Mattila, ultimately the vote was unanimous and the board went into closed session. However, board member Ronald Ortiz told the Beacon Thursday morning that he and another board member stayed silent during the vote but stayed and contributed to the meeting for the reason that it was “only discussion, no action was taken.”
Vinson told the board at the meeting, “The county expected no meeting to discuss contractual matters between the two until Monday. The county feels the hospital has violated the agreement and will therefore have to take action in order to resolve the matter. I was sent to the meeting to advise the hospital not to have this meeting and to wait until Monday (Dec. 7) night's meeting to discuss the agreement.”
Some back and forth heated comments from Vinson and the hospital board went on for nearly one-half hour. During the discussion, Mattila went to the extent of saying to Vinson that the hospital board feels that the county is violation of the agreement because the county is getting involved in the day-to-day operations of the hospital.
Ultimately, Vinson left the meeting suggesting to the hospital board that the two entities meet. He told them, “What started all of this is Mr. Cochran carrying a recorder to a private meeting several months ago. I don't trust this guy. Would you trust someone like that?” Vinson asked the board. “This is a good board and I believe the board and commission will work this out despite you guys getting bad information from your CEO (Cochran) and Chairman (Mattila),” Vinson said.
A meeting with the county commission and hospital board is scheduled for Monday, Dec. 7, at 6 p.m. Despite the fact that the notice in today's paper on Page 3 states that it is possible that the meeting may go into closed session, County Chairman Eddie Michael says, “It will not. This meeting will happen in open or I will not participate. The hospital is the community's and matters will be hashed out in front of the community.”
Cochran told the Beacon yesterday, “The hospital board is excited and eager to meet with the county commission.”
According to Michael the county is requesting a new agreement with the hospital that will include: a seven-member board, five from the current board and adding one Native American and one other representative chosen by the commission; the tape in which Cochran recorded a private meeting two months ago with Michael and Vinson in order to destroy; copies of a recent audit of the hospital; and list of administrative positions and salaries.
“We had several (hospital) board members attending a conference in San Francisco,” said Michael. “What is that? And than some go to Nashville? Something is wrong. I believe we may be top heavy and I want to find out.
“Ultimately, the county is responsible for the hospital and I believe we have a right to know what is going on,” Michael added.
Hospital board members present at the Wednesday meeting were Ortiz, Arnold Valdivia, Chairman Mattila, Sanchez, Vice-Chairman Ida Chavez, Paul Milan and Walter Meech. One position on the eight-member board is currently open. The hospital's attorney also was present at the meeting.