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CEO: Auditors didn't like what they found

Executive bonuses likely to result in a rebuke


Bonuses given out in 2014 to hospital executives prior to a turnover in leadership will likely result in a “finding” from the State Auditor’s Office, Coulee Medical Center’s top executive told her board Monday night.

“The auditor has alerted me that we could very possibly receive a ‘finding,’” CEO Debbie Bigelow said. “We may not have been that administration, but we are that hospital.”

An auditor’s “finding” is the strongest criticism possible.

Bigelow said bonuses given to executives in early 2014 for work performed in 2013 caught the auditor’s wary eye.

“They have looked very hard at our HR practices of the past and have not been happy with them,” she said. “They are most concerned about the executive bonuses that were given” and the lack of supporting documentation that shows why they were given. “They probably will give us a finding saying that that was not proper and should not have been done.”

Board President Jerry Kennedy said the bonuses happened “without the board’s knowledge or approval,” and that such a finding could actually help the district in current lawsuits filed by executives who left, claiming hostile working conditions were forcing them out.

The bonuses, to the chief executive at the time, J. Scott Graham, and to three other executives, totaled about $150,000.

Graham, then-chief financial officer Alan Wagner, and human resources director Julie Bjorklund later filed suit, claiming they had no choice but to resign because of a hostile board of directors, following a community upheaval that resulted in new hospital district board leadership, including Kennedy as president.

That suit is still pending, with a tentative trial set for August 28 unless a settlement is reached beforehand.

“We’re not really keen on settling, because we don’t feel culpable,” Kennedy said by phone on Tuesday.

Kennedy was voted in as president of the district commissioners again Monday night. Geary Oliver also remains as secretary.

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