The Sweetwater County Commissioners denied the Castle Rock Hospital District’s request for a wording change in their contract on Tuesday, September 19.
The CRHD board argued that it should not be stated in their contract that they must publish their personnel positions and salaries. The commissioners questioned why it mattered, emphasizing the importance of transparency.
CRHD Board Vice Chairman, Sandee Gunter said the board does not have any problems with publishing the information, but they do not want it stated in their contract.
“We know that all the records are public,” Gunter said. “But we didn’t agree that it needed to go in the contract.”
Hospital District’s Request
The CRHD board asked the commission to add the word “ambulance” in front of the word “employees” to the contract’s provision that employee salaries and positions be published. Doing so would direct the request toward the ambulance service, and not the physicians.
Bob Gordon, the board chairman, said that when the hospital district publishes physician salaries and positions, they get recruited from Castle Rock. He explained that the hospital district has a procedure for requesting that info, which is that people can fill out a Freedom of Information form. He said they want to keep control of how information is being passed.
Gordon questioned why Sweetwater Medics doesn’t have it stated in their contract to publish personnel information, even though they receive funding from Sweetwater County. Since Sweetwater Medics is their competition, the hospital district board believes they are at a disadvantage by having to publish personnel information.
Commissioner Chairman Reid West said Sweetwater Medics is not a government agency, so they are not required to publish their employee salaries and positions, whereas CRHD is.
Commissioner Wally Johnson agreed with Chairman West, and explained that Memorial Hospital discloses salaries and positions, and there is no reason CRHD should not disclose them as well.
Sweetwater County Clerk Dale Davis said that in the past when the county asked for CRHD’s personnel salaries and positions, Castle Rock was told they did not have to publish it because they were not receiving at least 20% of their funding from Sweetwater County.
However, the law has changed, and a few years ago a bill was passed that states all government personnel positions and salaries must be published. When Davis asked for the hospital district’s personnel information, the district denied his request for the information. Therefore, Davis felt the need to add the request for disclosure of personnel information to their contract.
Gunter once again said the board does not mind publishing their information, but they want Sweetwater Medics to be held to the same standard.
Questions of Accountability
Gordon said he understood the county wants to ensure money is being spent appropriately, but he questioned the accountability being held over Sweetwater Medics.
“How do we know the money you give Sweetwater Medics doesn’t go to salaries?” Gordon asked.
Chairman West explained that the county created an ambulance service board that oversees Sweetwater Medics to hold them accountable.
Commissioner John Kolb, who acts as a liaison to CRHD, explained that as government employees, publishing salary and position information is necessary to retain transparency, despite that it may be uncomfortable to do so.
Ultimately, after a back-and-forth discussion between the hospital district board and the commissioners, the commissioners held to their belief in a need for transparency. The hospital district’s request was denied. The CRHD will be required to publish their employee salaries and positions as stated in the contract.