Iberia Medical Center Board of Commissioners meetings are usually not standing-room-only affairs, but Tuesday night’s special meeting drew more than 140 people to the small conference room on the hospital’s main campus, forcing administrators to chock the doors open and bring out additional chairs for a crowd that filled the room and most of the adjoining lobby area.
The only action item on the agenda — a resolution to request board members Dr. David C. Benson and Frederick “Bozo” Metz resign.
The resolution voted on after the board went into executive session, however, was modified to put a timeline — and consequences — on the resignations. The final resolution gives Benson and Metz until Aug. 21 to either resign or face investigations of “allegations of misconduct or actions by them that impair the orderly process, operations or efficiency of the district and Iberia Medical Center, or disqualify them for any other reason.”
The hospital’s Medical Executive Committee brought the issue to the board in the form of its own resolution during a special meeting on Aug. 7. Dr. Michelle Menard, MEC chairwoman, read a resolution demanding the resignation of the two board members. Of the more than 130 physicians who serve IMC, 32 voted — 30 in favor of the resolution, one opposed and one abstained.
The move came less than two weeks after IMC Chief Executive Officer Parker Templeton tendered his resignation, effective Oct. 25.
Several members of the hospital staff spoke during the public comment section of the meeting. Jacob Freyou, a 23-year veteran of the hospital, said he has seen good times and bad times through his tenure with the organization, but cited Templeton’s time as CEO as a turning point for the positive.
“When Parker came in, I was part of the peer interview team,” Freyou said. “I can’t tell you I was sold on him on day one. He was young, he didn’t have the experience. But he proved me wrong on every one of my doubts.”
Brennon LeBlanc, another senior employee who now serves as the hospital’s director of pharmacy, said Templeton is not the first CEO to face a fractious board.
“All six of the CEOs I have worked under have had to deal with the disruptive, toxic behavior of board members,” LeBlanc said. “We’ve never been in a better financial position. With the purchase of Dauterive Hospital, we eliminated our local competitor. Now the biggest threat lies in this room.”
The board voted 5-3 in favor of the resolution. Metz, Benson and board member Ernest Wilson voted against the resolution, with Board Chairman Larry Hensgens and board members Burton Cestia, Kurt O’Brien, Cathy Reaves and Lynn Minvielle voting in favor.
Before the vote, board member Brock Romero read a letter explaining his decision to abstain from the vote.
“In this instance, I strongly believe to the best of my knowledge that our appointment as board members belongs entirely to the Iberia Parish Council,” Romero said. “It is (that) council that possesses the ultimate political and legal responsibility for the conduct of local government and the overall welfare of this health care organization and the community it serves.”
Romero, who was appointed to the board in April 2017, also took the opportunity in his two-page letter to address the schism on the board, and his observations on the divide.
“I was being pulled in different directions by board members in attempts to lure me to sit either on what they called the ‘West Side’ or ‘East Side’ of this boardroom table,” Romero said. “Initially this was humorous, but soon came to understand this board was and continues to be divided.”
Romero also said Metz and Benson are not the only board members who could be accused of being “malicious, toxic, destructive, divisive, vindictive and juvenile”
“I am here to inform you that other board members not being questioned tonight participate in this same type of behavior,” Romero said.
Both Romero and Benson, who also read a letter prior to the executive session, distanced themselves from Metz. Romero said he was not in the “back pocket” of Metz, Benson or Hensgens, while Benson sought to have his resignation handled separately from Metz, not jointly.
“Just because a small vocal minority of the doctors do not like me is no reason to ask for my resignation,” Benson said. “At last week’s meeting, a list of grievances against Mr. Metz was read. Interestingly, my name was not mentioned.”
Metz sat quietly throughout the public portion of the meeting.
Former board member Bill Miller, who served from 1994 to 2000, said he sees the problem as a simple one. Board members need to grow up.
“I look around and there are no children in here,” he said. “We’re all over 21. We have to act like adults.”
Another resolution requesting Metz and Benson resign will be discussed tonight as part of the Iberia Parish Council’s regular meeting.