Step away

Published 6:25 am Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Bainbridge-Decatur County Hospital Authority has begun the search for the next chief executive officer of Memorial Hospital and Manor. At a special called meeting last week, members of the authority developed and released to the public the characteristics and qualifications sought in the person who will be chosen to manage a massively important part of our community’s well-being.

One applicant for the job has already emerged. Joe Livingston, current chairman of the authority and member of the board for 15 years, has indicated his desire to succeed Jim Peak as the hospital’s CEO. During the meeting last week, Livingston excused himself from the portion of the meeting as fellow board members discussed the approach in hiring the next CEO.

Livingston said his passion for the hospital from his long-standing service on the authority and his 25 years of business ownership have readied him for the job. Livingston’s unwavering support for Memorial Hospital goes without question, and he very well could be the right person at the right time to lead the hospital through the troubled waters of the near future, but that’s not for us to decide. The five current members of the authority will make that decision.

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However, we feel that the pursuit of the job while remaining as a member of the authority is wrong. It would be in the best interest of all involved, including the chairman, the other members of the authority, the hospital and the community, for the current board chairman, Livingston, to resign from the board while actively seeking the job.

By remaining a member of the board during and after the search, questions surrounding the methodology and approach to hiring the CEO will persist, right or wrong. The only way to ensure that all involved are beyond reproach is for Livingston to step away from his appointed position on the authority.

What if the five other members of the authority decide that someone other than Livingston is the best fit for the next CEO? Livingston would return to a position of oversight and supervision of the person chosen for a job he desired. Nothing good could come from that scenario.

On the flip side, consider the person who the authority does hire, should they decide Livingston in not the right fit. Would good, qualified applicants pass on the opportunity to pursue the job? Would this present an awkward relationship between a would-be CEO and the chairman of the authority?

The authority would be wise to review its policies and set a policy that would address this situation should it ever rise again. A clear guideline is needed to describe what is expected from current and future board members who seek to be employed full time by the hospital.

But now, Livingston should pursue the job in which he believes he would excel, but that pursuit should be done apart from the responsibilities of a sitting board member.