SLAYTON - A meeting of the Murray County Medical Center Board of Directors ended in suspense late Friday afternoon as county residents waited on news of a pending resignation. By the end of the meeting it had been confirmed the board had approved a separation agreement with a Medical Center employee, but not whom it was, though speculation centered around MCMC Director Mel Snow.
Snow's term as director of MCMC has been troubled by controversy and a spate of high-profile resignations during the past year.
About 100 people crowded into the Murray County Courthouse for the special meeting of the board, but board members voted to go into closed session next door immediately after convening.
The assembled crowd shouted their disapproval as County Attorney Paul Malone was excluded from the meeting. Instead, the board met with attorney Gregg Corwin of the St. Louis Park firm of Gregg M. Corwin Associate Law Office, a firm specializing in labor and employment law.
"I've been hired by MCMC with regards to a separation agreement and mutual release," Corwin said.
Cries arose from the crowd: "For who?"
According to Corwin, the meeting was closed because of potential litigation and as a personnel matter could be kept private under the open meetings laws and the Minnesota Data Practices Act since it involved attorney-client privilege.
MCMC and Snow are currently involved in a lawsuit filed by Dan Woldt, a Physicians Assistant who formerly worked for MCMC. Wold's lawsuit alleges MCMC and Snow engaged in conduct "aimed at denying (Woldt's) employment rights and protections granted to him under the law" and seeks damages in excess of $75,000.
After about an hour-and-a-half the commissioners came back and reopened the public meeting.
However, Chairman Robert Moline said that though the commissioners had approved a separation agreement they would not reveal the name of the person who had resigned until the separation agreement was executed by both parties.
"It's been a tough couple of months for our board and our hospital," Moline began, only to be interrupted by jeers from the crowd.
"Awwwww," some jeered sarcastically. "And our community," others shouted.
Magnus asked to speak to the crowd.
"I don't agree with the agreement," Magnus said to the cheers of the crowd. "I'm not opposed to this person leaving, I'm opposed to the amount."
Brian Peterson, a former nurse anesthetist who resigned last December, spoke from the crowd.
"The contract stated if he was terminated there would be no severance package," Peterson said. "Is that what you renegotiated?"
Moline said no questions would be answered at the meeting, but the board had tentatively scheduled a meeting for the evening of March 25 at which time the board would take questions.
"Are you in secret negotiations to sell or lease the hospital to Sanford or Avera?" a voice from the crowd shouted.
Moline said he had heard the rumors but they were not true and there had been no talks with either party.
"Invite Avera back," another voice shouted. "That's the only way we'll get our providers back!"
As the meeting broke up other voices shouted, "Who pays the bill? Taxpayers!" and "Resign everybody!"