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Coulee Medical Center ER and Walk-In Care

Hospital district com. may meet Thursday

Controversial attorney change at issue


A special meeting of the commission that governs Coulee Medical Center, originally called for last night, was postponed, likely until Thursday night, Jan. 9, because an attorney central to the agenda could not make it out of Spokane due to snowy roads.

[Update 1-9-14: Confirmed: the meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. tonight.]

A majority of the five commissioners called the special meeting to consider, among other things, hiring a different law firm, a proposal that died at a regular meeting of the commission Dec. 26, less than two weeks earlier.

At issue were public complaints about stopping a popular discounted lab test week. Commissioners Jerry Kennedy and Geary Oliver had served as a committee to look into obtaining independent legal counsel for the board to get a second opinion on the matter.

Instead, they recommended a complete change to a Spokane firm already familiar with CMC, retaining the current firm for more specialized legal needs.

Kennedy reported that the recommended lawyer charged $200 an hour, while the Seattle-based current counsel charges $500, resulting in a $25,000 bill for October alone.

The agenda lists a report by that Independent Counsel Committee, with the next item “Selection of Counsel.”

The meeting was called by a majority of the commission, not the president, who was adamantly opposed to the change in December.

Commission President Greg Behrens argued then that, because of current issues on which Foster Pepper, the current legal firm, was working, the switch would be expensive and not good for the hospital.

The firm had provided Behrens with advice last fall that a special meeting called by the majority would be illegal and Behrens initially tried to call it off.

Kennedy and Oliver were keen to switch legal firms, but Commissioner Kris Hare joined Behrens in voting no on Dec. 26.

Since then, the board’s fifth, just elected, commissioner has been sworn in. Commissioner Betty Brueske will attend her first meeting of the commission, as a commissioner, at the upcoming special meeting.

Commissioner Geary Oliver said about 5 p.m. Tuesday night that the board would simply convene the 7 p.m. meeting, then immediately adjourn until Thursday night at 7 p.m.

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