On Monday, Nov, 13, Battle Mountain General Hospital's (BMGH) board of trustees listened to interim Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Kathy Ancho discuss a letter the hospital received from former CEO Bryan Hargis.
Hargis’s contract was terminated by the hospital board on Sept. 5, after hospital staffers complained about Hargis and changes he had made within the hospital. Staff members even said they had received multiple threats of reprimand from Hargis, during his time at BMGH. Among the complaints from hospital staff and doctors were concerns about a rumor that Hargis was attempting to sell the hospital, although those rumors were never confirmed.
“We received a letter from Hargis’ attorney requesting that he gets paid $92,500, which is a six-month severance pay and $9,250 for 13 days of vacation time. The total amount to be paid to Hargis is $101,750,” Ancho informed the hospital board.
Anco said that initially, District Attorney Ted Herrera and Nevada Rural Hospital Partners Attorney Steve Balkenbush reviewed the contract. She said she then turned all the paperwork over to attorney Hy Forgeron for his counsel. Each attorney offered the same interpretation.
The board had three options to choose from after the attorney's opinions. The first was to pay the requested amount, the second was to decline and fight the settlement cost in the court system; the third was to try to negotiate down the costs claimed.
“It is a lot of money to give up because somebody said that’s the best thing to do. What if we took number two and declined the demand with no further action and see what they come up with?” asked board member Dave Mason. “We could hire an investigator to do the work. Let’s collect some evidence and go for the throat here. I think there was some criminal activity involved that needs investigating.”
Board member Doug Mills replied to Mason, “That is going to cost us another 10 to 20 thousand for an investigator, plus the attorney expense they will stick us with. It will cost us at least $40,000.”
Ancho recommended that the board choose the third option and try to negotiate the settlement down. “I think with how the contract's written, it is hard to argue. If you do number three, you can see if they will negotiate anything.”
Ancho recommended the board avoid declining the settlement, “I think if you decline it, you may not have a leg to stand on and may have to pay his (Hargis’) attorney fees as well.”
The board finally approved paying the settlement request from Hargis’s attorney, with Mason casting the only vote against. Board members did not believe that Hargis would be willing to negotiate and the majority of the board felt they should just pay the settlement and end the dispute once and for all.
Board members said they certainly hoped that this issue does not come up again in the future. They will welcome new BMGH CEO, Jason Bleak, on Jan. 15. Bleak visited Battle Mountain with his family in Ocober.
Ancho expressed her excitement about their arrival, saying, “They are a very nice family. The staff, the board, the community and the county will be impressed by Jason (Bleak) and all that he offers.”