When the Prince George's hospital system's board of directors voted Monday evening to reject County Executive Jack B. Johnson (D)'s demand that several members resign, the vote of one of the board members present wasn't counted. And it was a biggie.
In a closed door session just before taking up discussion of the executive's demand, the board voted that two of its members have a conflict of interest that prevented them from voting based entirely on their allegiance to the nonprofit company, Dimensions Healthcare System.
The group agreed that the county's two representatives on the board, Johnson Chief of Staff Michael D. Herman and County Council Chairman Camille Exum (D-Seat Pleasant) couldn't vote on the critically important item. Exum was not present at the meeting, so the decision had little impact on her. But Herman's waving hand voting that the board accept Johnson's terms was ignored by Chairman Calvin Brown and the board's clerk.
According to those present during the secret discussion, one point that helped sway the board to bar Herman and Exum was Herman's admission to the group that he had been involved in drafting Johnson's written demand to the board. That indicated to them that his first loyalty was to his boss, the county's top elected leader.
Herman, however, objected repeatedly to the decision after the board returned to open session, questioning whether doctors serving on the board were not equally conflicted since they derive income from the corporation. The group's attorney replied he did not believe so, since he felt the doctors' jobs meant that their interests were aligned with the company's.
He also argued that because the board and Johnson both want quality health care for county residents, their interests are aligned and no conflict existed.
Critics of the county's role in hospital management have long argued that Exum and Herman are hopelessly conflicted when they take votes about the hospital's future as members of an independent corporate board. The boards willingness to go on record agreeing with that position only illustrates the depth of the split that now exists between hospital leaders and county officials.
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