Emails reveal MHSC discussion
November 21, 2018
Emails sent amongst members of the Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater County board of trustees show how board members came to a decision regarding its withdrawal of funds from Bank of the West.
An environmental policy on the bank’s website created a stir within Wyoming when it stated it would not do business with certain operations within the energy industry. The statement led to the Sweetwater County Commissioners pulling county funds from the bank and Governor-elect Mark Gordon, currently the Wyoming State Treasurer, to announce his willingness to prohibit Bank of the West from receiving state funds and work with communities transferring their assets from the bank.
The communication amongst the board members was done through email, something board chairman Richard Mathey disagreed with during the board’s October meeting. Mathey believed the discussion violated the Wyoming Meetings Act as board members discussed the Bank of the West issue outside of a public meeting. The board ultimately supported withdrawing its funds from Bank of the West in the October meeting.
According to emails requested by the Green River Star, the discussion started Sept. 15 and ended Sept. 21. According to a letter from the hospital’s legal counsel, Suzan Campbell, one email dated Sept. 21 and its reply was not included in the list of released emails because it she claims it is protected by attorney-client privilege.
An email sent from the board’s vice president Taylor Jones started the conversation, sharing information he had received from Rock Springs City Council representative Rose Mosbey. In his email, he wrote he knows firsthand the benefits the oil-and-gas industry provide to the state and its residents. He believed withdrawing funds from Bank of the West was a smart fiscal move because the oil-and-gas industry provides livable wages and excellent healthcare benefits.
“These are the patients the hospital wants. There are choices in healthcare now in Sweetwater County. I would hate to think that the board is sending the wrong message,” Jones wrote.
Board trustee Ed Tardoni responded by looking at the issue as a slippery slope. As asked if the board would decide to not do business with firms supporting Roe vs. Wade, or those that donate to the Republican party of those that won’t process payments for the firearms industry.
“There may be risk, but best to stay out of that mind set,” he concluded.
Trustee Barabra Sowada said while she is likely the most liberal person on the board, she is also pragmatic and would not vote against withdrawing funds from Bank of the West.
Another trustee, Marty Kelsey, said the board may label it whatever they want, but the hospital might get on the wrong side of Sweetwater County residents “with unpleasant consequences” if they decide not to pull funds from the bank when the state, county and other entities are doing so.
“What message does the board want to send to the very people we desperately want to support us,” Kelsey asked. “In matters like this, perception rules.”
Tardoni replied again, saying he would support pulling funds from Bank of the West only if they had a better financial offer, believing a majority of people don’t really care about the bank’s environmental stance.
“Are we as a board going to make decisions based on finances or on emotion? Liberal or conservative, energy worker or environmentalist, pro or anti carbon - that should not enter into our decisions -only cold hard return on investment is what should be looked at,” Tardoni replied.
Jones said he hasn’t made a point to ask people, but he had been in a number of conversations with people upset with the bank for its stance. Jones also said he isn’t concerned with people making choices between going to the emergency room or dying or when they’re “possibly unconscious,” but he is concerned with people choosing other providers over MHSC for family visits or treatments when they do have the time to make a decision.
He said he is also concerned with some oil-and-gas companies deciding not to donate to the hospital’s foundation.
“It’s the bottom line I’m concerned with, losing business is losing business, losing revenue is losing revenue,” he wrote.
CEO Irene Richardson responded as well, writing the hospital should not confuse the issue of what happened with Bank of the West with how and where the hospital should invest its funds.
Richardson wrote that the administration has discussed investing its funds in financial institutions which offer the best return of investment and asked what the hospital should do if Bank of the West offered the best interest rate.
“Regarding the issue with the decision that was made by the Bank of the West. Our role as the CEO and the board of trustees is to do what is in the best interest of Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater County and the community it serves,” Richardson wrote.
She wrote that when she makes public presentations for MHSC, one of the more impactful statements she makes is how the hospital strives to be good community partners and support the community, believing the message is delivered in a way that encourages the community and local industries to support the hospital as well.
While Richardson states she has an opinion on the Bank of the West issue, she doesn’t believe she should use her position to further her personal or political beliefs and said the county is small enough where making a political stance regardless of if the board and administration believe in it or not, is likely not in the best interest of the hospital.
“All political and personal views aside, our job is to do what is in the best interest of the hospital. And if our patients and community members perceive that the Bank of the West doesn’t support them, and by us not making a stand, then I worry that they will not support us. I’m not sure we want to die on this hill. We are looking to the community to support us and the community is looking for us to support them,” Richardson wrote.