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Assembly OK's PERS opt-out for Bartlett's chiefs, surgeons

Posted: March 6, 2012 - 1:03am

Bartlett Regional Hospital is moving to making it easier to attract the best leaders and general surgeons it can for the facility, now that its top two employees are no longer contracted.

Bartlett Regional Hospital’s board forwarded an employment change to the city. It wants its CEO, chief financial officer and all of its general surgeons to be exempt from PERS (Public Employment Retirement System).

Ultimately, the Assembly made two motions to exclude those employees: one for the executives and one for the surgeons. Both passed, but the motion for the CEO and CFO was divided.

The resolutions approving the request stipulate the state’s Department of Administration must also authorize the change.

Assembly Member Jesse Kiehl was the most uncomfortable with the proposal.

Bartlett board president Linda Thomas said she believes the CEO and CFO position have never been under PERS, at least not for a long time. She said the only possibility they may have been under PERS was prior to contracting with a management company.

Kiehl said he could understand the desire to have general surgeons excluded, since they perform duties that are unlike any other Bartlett employee, but he did not favor excluding the CEO and CFO. Kiehl asked which other employees are excluded.

Katheryn Callahan, director of physician services, said all other hospital employees are included in the retirement program.

Interim CEO John Vowell explained why the hospital would want to exclude those positions. He said that most CEOs and CFOs are not like Bartlett’s longtime former CEO Robert Valliant, who served the hospital for 17 years. Most stay for three to five years. Those executives tend to have their own retirement plans or programs, and carry them from hospital to hospital and are negotiated as part of their contracts. That way, the administrators aren’t continuously leaving retirement dollars from one job to another.

“Clearly Mr. Valliant is an exception,” said Assembly Member David Stone. “We’d be lucky if we get someone to serve five years or more. I think we need to give the board the best flexibility to get the best CEO we can get.”

Assembly Member Ruth Danner expressed concern over not having those employees in PERS because the program relies on a larger pool of members contributing.

Kiehl asked if the hospital board had a retirement package in mind for those who would be exempted. Botelho said that kind of thing would be negotiated and likely wouldn’t be appropriate to discuss outside of broad terms in open session.

“This gives us an ability to negotiate with candidates based upon what they are bringing to the hospital,” Thomas said. “What’s going on in their life as far as retirement, they can handle their own financial planning and retirement planning. It also opens up a larger pool of candidates for us.”

Kiehl said he can understand the board’s need for more flexibility, particularly when it comes to getting and retaining general surgeons, however he did not feel the same for the top two. He felt those two positions should be in PERS and help contribute to the pool.

Kiehl and Danner voted against the motion approving exemption for the CEO and CFO, in a 7-2 vote. The Assembly voted unanimously in favor of exempting general surgeons.

In other business, the Assembly unanimously approved rebonding the city’s 2003A and 2003B bonds in favor of cost savings. It also unanimously approved an ordinance change in regards to commercial passenger vehicles. In a contested vote, it also passed updated regulations for commercial passenger vehicles. Assembly Member Karen Crane said she opposed the changes because of the structure around shuttles.

“I have a great problem with the definition of shuttles and what it may or may not do,” she said. “The future for shuttle service in Juneau is just eliminated.”

The largest part of the issue requires a defined route, and Assembly members like Crane would like to see a shuttle service offered in various places, but particularly from the ferry terminal. In a situation like that, however, it would be difficult to have a defined route to shuttle people throughout Juneau from the ferry.

Other regulation changes included some fee decreases — the amount of time it takes the Juneau Police Department to perform inspections, for example, was not enough to justify a higher rate to meet the costs of the program — and some increases because of new definitions. Jennifer Adams, with JPD, said taxi cab companies also requested higher fees it can charge to customers because the cost of business is going up while their rates are not. Some changes include a soilage fee — for times when customers soil the taxi so badly it must be taken out of service to clean and increasing the cost of tours.

The new regulations passed 7-2, with Crane and Assembly Member Randy Wanamaker opposed.

• Contact reporter Sarah Day at 523-2279 or at sarah.day@juneauempire.com.

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