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Three Rivers CEO contract on agenda

J. Scott Graham to be offered salary plan April 28

— Three Rivers Hospital commissioners will wait until their regular meeting month’s end to consider a contract before formally hiring a new administrator.

“It’s on the agenda and there is discussion on the new CEO,” hospital spokeswoman Rebecca Meadows said of the next meeting, slated for 4 p.m. April 28.

The hospital board selected embattled Coulee Medical Center’s J. Scott Graham as the top candidate for the job following a flawed selection process challenged by The Chronicle for violations of the state Open Public Meetings Act.

Current CEO O.E. “Bud” Hufnagel’s has resigned effective April 30.

“Bud has offered to stay until May 16,” Meadows said.

Commission Chairwoman Vicki Orford met with Graham on April 7 to start contract negotiations. She had planned to bring a proposed contract to a special meeting before the regular April 28 meeting.

That plan isn’t happening “supposedly because the regulations say we can’t have a special meeting for that purpose,” Commissioner Jerry Tretwold said.

Municipal Research and Services Center of Washington advised the hospital that contracts must be considered in regularly scheduled meetings, he said.

“We want to do it right,” Tretwold said, but “we would like to do it soon because Bud wants to leave on the 30th. Everything’s on hold until the new guy gets here.”

Graham, surrounded by controversy at Coulee Medical Center in Grand Coulee, was out of the office Monday and not available for comment.

Since being selected as the top candidate March 25, The Chronicle has left multiple messages for Graham, who has failed to return a single call.

On March 10, amid concerns from some hospital employees and community members, the Coulee Medical Center board hired a contractor to investigate whether the hospital has grounds to fire Graham for cause.

Some employees at that hospital have alleged Graham’s administration created a hostile work environment and diminished morale, while one former and one current board member had positive things to say about him.

If Graham is fired without cause from Coulee Medical Center, the hospital would have to pay him a year’s salary and benefits, according to his five-year contract. The hospital wouldn’t have to pay him if he’s terminated for cause.

Graham has been CEO at Coulee Medical Center since 2010. His salary since that time has increased from $150,000 to $201,578, not including benefits.

Hufnagel’s salary was bumped from $150,000 to $175,000 last summer, $26,578 less than Graham’s current salary in Grand Coulee.

Graham was selected from an initial pool of 26 candidates; Hufnagel informed him of the opening. Hospital officials refused to disclose the names of all the other applicants, except one other finalist, Eugene Suksi of Crescent City, Calif.

In an interview last week with The Chronicle, Hufnagel maintained that he did not have a vote in the selection process. However, he recommended candidates and reviewed resumes. He was also allowed in executive sessions where candidates’ qualifications were discussed.

Despite controversies following Graham, Three Rivers commissioners voted unanimously – with the exception of Cherryl Thomas, who was out of town – to offer the job to Graham.

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