Wellington City Council and SRMC board meet 2 hours in executive session to discuss issues… Was it legal?

first_imgBy James Jordan, Sumner Newscow — The Wellington City Council spent two hours in a private executive session at a joint work session meeting with the hospital board Monday evening. The work session meeting was set to talk about financing the struggling hospital. Wellington Mayor Shelley Hansel said she wanted to have the meeting to make sure everyone is on the same page in the same room. She said everyone wants the hospital to survive, and thrive.“Tonight is the first step to get us going in the right direction,” she said.As the meeting was about to begin, city attorney Mike Brown suggested the executive session.He cited attorney client privilege as a reason for the executive session.All city council members present — Bill Butts was not there — voted to go into executive session. After an hour the executive session was continued for another hour. At that point Hansel said those in executive session had been having some good discussion but they were not finished. They voted to extend the session.Last year the city gave the hospital nearly $900,000 after a long executive session. They also forgave utility bills at that time. The hospital has not paid utility bills this year, and that has recently become an issue as the city faces budget problems of its own.After the two-hour executive session Hansel said the hospital would continue to try to work better, faster and stronger.“We have talked about ways to cut costs and do everything that we are already doing. We are all committed to working for the betterment of the hospital, its employees and the citizens of Wellington,” she said.She added it was a “good frank discussion.”As far as the executive session she said the city had to do what it had to do.“In order to have a productive conversation it was necessary,” she said.Hansel added that actual numbers and employees were discussed, which made for executive session material, even though those were not the reasons given for the executive session. ••••• Sumner Newscow looked up the definition of whether or not an executive session was legal in this situation with the Kansas Attorney’s Office. We found a couple of exceptions that may come into question on the validity of having an executive session on a work session.  Here is part of a Q and A from the Kansas Attorney General website concerning Kansas Open Meeting Laws.What constitutes a privileged relationship? 1. The body’s attorney (or attorneys) must be present; 2. The communication must be privileged, and 3. No other third parties may be present.Can a public body discuss a legal matter under this exception, even if their attorney is not with them? No. This exception in the KOMA cannot be used to discuss legal matters, such as a letter received from attorney, if the attorney is not present. The attorney for the body must be present somehow (by telephone is allowed) and participating in the discussion (not enough to simply have the attorney present).Does the discussion have to be on litigation or threatened litigation? No. The KOMA does not require that the legal matter involve litigation. Can someone who is not a member of the client organization or the attorney(s) for that entity be included in an executive session called under this exception? No. The presence of a third-party who is not part of the client organization or an attorney for that body will destroy the privileged nature of the communication. Does the KOMA allow use of the “personnel exception” to privately discuss employees of some other public body or entity? No. The KOMA allows a public body to privately discuss their own employees, not the employees of some other employer.Follow us on Twitter. Close Forgot password? Please put in your email: Send me my password! Close message Login This blog post All blog posts Subscribe to this blog post’s comments through… RSS Feed Subscribe via email Subscribe Subscribe to this blog’s comments through… RSS Feed Subscribe via email Subscribe Follow the discussion Comments (22) Logging you in… Close Login to IntenseDebate Or create an account Username or Email: Password: Forgot login? Cancel Login Close WordPress.com Username or Email: Password: Lost your password? Cancel Login Dashboard | Edit profile | Logout Logged in as Admin Options Disable comments for this page Save Settings Sort by: Date Rating Last Activity Loading comments… You are about to flag this comment as being inappropriate. Please explain why you are flagging this comment in the text box below and submit your report. The blog admin will be notified. Thank you for your input. +3 Vote up Vote down g sugar · 265 weeks ago Oh Geez! They need to be able to have a “good frank discussion”. They need to talk to each other without the media and whole community misinterpreting/misquoting/misjudging what was said. No decisions/deals were made behind closed doors. Let’s keep both parties talking: to each other! Report Reply 2 replies · active 265 weeks ago +1 Vote up Vote down southsideresident · 265 weeks ago Again, thanks for the detail. On target with question about the distinction between executive session and the open meetings laws. I wondered about that myself. I hope Wellington folks are following the exchanges between council/ city manager, HAB, the doctors. Loss of the hospital or diminishing of it’s functions would be a economic punch to Wellington (per John Cooks blog). Report Reply 0 replies · active 265 weeks ago +14 Vote up Vote down Jane Cole · 265 weeks ago I think this is a great start to a very long process. When everyone is on the same page it makes it harder for rumors and speculation to take over. I would imagine that there are a lot of small town hospitals in the same predicament. I do hope that part of the process going forward looks in to the possibility of doing what the hospital in Caldwell did a few years back. No one likes to make cuts. Report Reply 0 replies · active 265 weeks ago +2 Vote up Vote down craig · 265 weeks ago Secret, “executive sessions” beg more questions. Report Reply 0 replies · active 265 weeks ago +3 Vote up Vote down Wes Smith · 265 weeks ago Is there still a townhall meeting tonight…if so when and where? I’ve not seen any other mention of it since the previous story concerning the hospital and there is no notice on the City’s webpage. Report Reply 0 replies · active 265 weeks ago +3 Vote up Vote down 2CENTS · 265 weeks ago THE EMPLOYEES TOOK A 6% PAY CUT A LONG TIME AGO AND THEY HAVE ALSO CUT ALMOST 30 OR MORE JOBS ALREADY. DOES ANY ONE REMEMBER THAT THE COMMUNITY AGREED TO A HALF CENT RAISE TO HELP THE HOSPITAL SO OBVIOUSLY THE COMMUNITY WANTS TO KEEP SRMC. Report Reply 1 reply · active 265 weeks ago +5 Vote up Vote down Frustrated · 265 weeks ago It’s great that the city and the hospital board know what’s going on, now can we at least get some general information for the public and the employees of SRMC? Report Reply 0 replies · active 265 weeks ago +3 Vote up Vote down ItsMe · 265 weeks ago They violated the open meetings act. Unfortunately, punishment for such a violation, is weak at best, so there’s that. The money being used to continually bail out the hospital is public money, therefore this “good frank discussion” should have happened in open session. The mayor and an attorney for the city condoned this, wow. Report Reply 1 reply · active 265 weeks ago +9 Vote up Vote down JLKB · 265 weeks ago Our own council promised more disclosure and openness. Certainly doesn’t appear they are following through. An executive session during a work session seems inappropriate even if it is legal, which is questionable. Report Reply 1 reply · active 265 weeks ago +13 Vote up Vote down Common knowledge · 265 weeks ago Our mayor is sure not starting out on a good note. Report Reply 0 replies · active 265 weeks ago 12Next » Post a new comment Enter text right here! 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