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Crucial vote jeopardizes hospital board’s authority

“This issue should have been fixed 15 years ago (but the Authority) has strong armed officials since then.”
Published: Nov. 8, 2021 at 8:07 PM CST
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DOTHAN, Ala. (WTVY) -The Houston County Commission took a crucial step Monday to strip power from the board that oversees operations of Southeast Health, including its Dothan hospital and healthcare network.

It approved a resolution asking the county attorney and local legislative delegation to craft a bill that would change the method of selecting Houston County Healthcare Authority members. Current law mandates commissioners, who make 12 appointments to the 13-member board, select only those recommended by the Authority.

“It is like the fox guarding the hen house,” Houston County Commissioner Ricky Herring (R-Dist. 3) said of that law.

Herring is not alone in his desire for change.

“There has been a decrease in willingness (of the Authority) to work with this commission,” Commissioner Brandon Shoupe (R-Wicksburg) told News 4.

Commissioner Doug Sinquefield’s effort to delay Monday’s vote failed because neither Shoupe nor Herring would second his motion. Sinquefield (R-Ashford) had hoped the commission would postpone the vote due to the absence of Commissioner Curtis Harvey (D-Dist. 1).

After a resolution is crafted, another vote on November 22 would send the proposal to the Alabama Legislature where Rep. Paul Lee (R-Dothan) promises to sponsor the constitutional amendment. “Absolutely, I will,” Lee told News 4. He is a former member of the Authority.

Concerns over the selection process surfaced when Herring recently refused to reappoint Dothan businessman Lance Shepard who had been recommended by the Authority. While praising Shepard’s integrity, Herring believes that long time government administrator Steve Hicks is the best choice because of his vast experience in financial matters.

Herring said as he prepared to appoint Hicks he discovered that he is not free to pick the person of his choice. “This issue should have been fixed 15 years ago (but the Authority) has strong armed officials since then,” Herring said.

If lawmakers approve the change, the final say would be that of voters, most likely in November 2022 elections.

The Houston County Healthcare Authority has not commented on the matter other than Chairman Chester Sowell telling News 4 the Authority will always abide by the law.

Though his term has expired, Shepard will continue serving until the matter is resolved.

Copyright 2021 WTVY. All rights reserved.

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