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New CRMC Drama: Resolution On Reporting All Salaries Fails

A Cookeville City Council resolution that would have required the Cookeville Regional Board of Trustees to provide salary information on every CRMC employee failed Thursday night.

The latest in the soap opera surrounding CRMC’s budget and the Ricky Shelton hiring came with Council Member Charles Womack’s surprise resolution requiring the Trustees to submit salary information quarterly. Womack did not discuss the resolution during a Tuesday afternoon work session which included Cookeville Regional CEO Paul Korth and members of the Board of Trustees.

Womack did not publicly ask for information on salaries when Korth offered to answer questions Tuesday or in the other two public meetings where Korth has given council members the chance to debrief on the budget.

“Is this about the well-being of the hospital and the operating budget or is this about my paycheck? I mean, that’s the question,” Mayor Ricky Shelton said. Womack did not respond.

Shelton asked Womack if he had requested such salary information in the ten years he served on the CRMC Board of Trustees. “No,” Womack said.

Vice Mayor and Board of Trustees Member Laurin Wheaton was not present at the City Council meeting Thursday, telling council members ahead of time she would be absent. For that reason, the council decided Tuesday to move the approval of the budget to a special called session next week. Shelton questioned why Womack brought up the issue knowing the council member who serves on the trustees would not be present.

“This is another last minute non-publicly discussed amendment to the agenda relative to the medical center, the fourth in five months by you, Dr. Womack,” Shelton said. “There was some discussion behind the scenes that didn’t involve the entire council and certainly didn’t involve the public before this was done.”

Council Member Mark Miller said he thought it was a reasonable request to get transparency about employee salaries. Miller said one-third of the medical center budget sits on one budget line.

But Council Member Eric Walker encouraged the council to talk with the Board of Trustees about any financial concerns first before putting such a rule in place.

“I’d encourage that if this council does have direct questions involving the budget of the hospital, that should be done with the hospital board of trustees in mind,” Walker said. “And if if you can’t get those answers via that avenue, then perhaps seeking an avenue such as this one would be a possibility. But in my opinion, you know, the board of trustees elected, they have the sole responsibility for the operations of the hospital as stated in the hospital charter.”

He also said it has been mentioned multiple times that publishing the salary information of doctors could negatively impact CRMC. Womack offered to amend his resolution eliminating doctors from the report. No amendment was offered.

Council members suggested tabling the resolution until the next meeting. Because the June 10 meeting is a special-called meeting, no new items can be added to the meeting agenda. The council discussed tabling the resolution to the second reading of the CRMC budget June 17.

“Waiting until the second meeting on a vote for a budget could really press the city for time to pass the budget,” Walker said. “I believe that if the council has any kind of concerns with the budget or financials, that we should, as soon as possible call a meeting between the hospital board trustees and the council.”

Walker asked how soon a meeting could legally happen. Attorney Dan Rader said he thought the council would need to ask the board if it were willing to meet, then publish the meeting for three days before holding it. The council has just five business days before the CRMC budget meeting.

Shelton called for a vote on Womack’s original resolution requiring the trustees to report to the city council quarterly. Womack and Miller voted yes, Walker no, and Shelton abstained. The motion failed.

The council has simply passed the CRMC budget in each of this council’s previous budget seasons. After Ricky Shelton’s hiring as Cookeville Regional Chief Strategy Officer, council members have sought more information on CRMC’s spending and budget plans.

Walker said at a work session he believed CRMC could do more financially for the city. Miller said he wanted a K-9 security program removed from the budget.

Two different attorneys, including Rader said the council does not have oversight of the medical center’s operations.