Iberia Medical Center Board quickly accepts investigative report

Iberia Parish Legal Counsel Andy Shealy answers a question for Iberia Medical Center board member Lynn Minvielle Wednesday afternoon as Minvielle reads the investigative report on board members Frederick “Bozo” Metz and David C. Benson.

In a report on the actions of two Iberia Medical Center Board of Commissioners, a special counsel detailed witness accounts of negative comments, disruptive activities, violation of confidentiality and, in one case, advising a physician negotiating with the hospital so they could charge the hospital more and get a better deal.

In what may be the briefest public meeting on record in Iberia Parish, the Iberia Medical Center Board of Commissioners convened Wednesday afternoon to accept the investigative report on members Frederick “Bozo” Metz and David C. Benson.

The report leaves any final decision over the removal of the two board members up to the Iberia Parish Council, but it lays out multiple witness accounts of statements each has made that the report calls “detrimental” to the hospital’s success.

Chairman Larry Hensgen called the meeting to order shortly after 3 p.m. The single item on the agenda — to accept the report of special counsel Matthew Brown and forward it to the Iberia Parish Council — was handled in less than a minute, with board member Burton Cestia moving to accept the report.

The vote was 5-0 in favor of accepting and forwarding the report. Four board members — Brock Romero, Ernest Wilson, Metz and Benson — were not present.

Brown’s report cited several specific incidents regarding each board member. In Metz’s case, Brown concluded that he had made multiple public inaccurate statements, including:

Falsely alleging that CEO Parker Templeton misappropriated hospital property by benefitting from “points” on hospital credit cards,

Falsely stating that Templeton was mishandling the hospital’s money,

Falsely accusing the hospital of allowing an unauthorized person to be present in patient care areas,

Falsely stating during the board’s July meeting that a patient died during the Hurricane Barry evacuation, and

Falsely stating during a board meeting that state Sen. Fred Mills called him to talk about proposed legislation to clarify the process for board appointments from the medical staff when in fact Metz called Mills to protest the proposed changes.

The report also detailed several actions Metz took on his own:

Purchasing a golf cart and having it delivered to the hospital despite repeatedly being told that it would be a liability and operational issue to allow patients to be transported in the cart.

Meeting with employees to criticize Templeton’s compensation, and

Meeting with a physician with whom the hospital was negotiating in order to help that physician negotiate a more favorable contract with the hospital.

The report also stated that Metz regularly made negative comments about the hospital in public, despite his role as a member of the hospital’s board.

In Benson’s case, the list of witnesses and testimony was far shorter. The witness statements, according to Brown, related primarily to:

Nurses’ fears that Benson would not support them or back them up by signing his orders,

Benson’s public criticism of the hospital and staff, and

The lack of medical staff support for Benson’s selection to the board.

In one witness account, Benson is said to have told a nurse in the intensive care unit that he did not want one of his patients transferred to the fourth floor because Benson did not trust the nurses on that floor.

“They’re incompetent,” the witness quoted Benson saying, causing the patient to become fearful of being tranferred out of ICU to the fourth floor.

The witness also said Benson would often give verbal orders and orders by phone that he would later refuse to sign off on, denying having given the order in the first place.

The report also noted that in an environment in which many hospitals are facing financial hardships, IMC under Templeton had managed not only to hold on but to thrive, adding the North Campus through its purchase of Dauterive Hospital and most recently landing a revenue bond for much-needed infrastructure improvements on both campuses.

Each member of the board received a copy of the report. Another 18 copies were boxed and sent to the Iberia Parish Council, where it was distributed during Wednesday night’s regular council meeting. The council is scheduled to address the report at its meeting on Oct. 23.

In a 5-1 vote during a special meeting on Aug. 22, the IMC board approved hiring Brown, a lawyer with Sullivan Stolier and Schulze LLC. As special counsel, Brown was tasked with determining if any actions Metz or Benson have engaged in amount to cause for their removal or disqualify them from serving on the board.

The final result of Brown’s investigation cites nine witnesses who described Metz’s actions and statements detrimental to the board and seven witnesses describing Benson’s statements and actions that were not in the best interests of the hospital.

In his summary, Brown differentiated between Metz’s actions and those of Benson.

“Thus, there is evidence summarized earlier in this section, showing that Mr. Metz has engaged in conduct that has, according to the witnesses, produced ‘results detrimental or prejudicial to the efficiency’ of Iberia Medical Center. There is also evidence that the hospital staff believes that Dr. Benson was incorrectly placed on the board and that they believe that Dr. Benson’s disruptive nature interferes with his team work, and is generally harmful to the hospital.”

The board did not go into executive session to review the report before sending it to the Iberia Parish Council, although some members remained at the table to read the document after the meeting was completed.

Because the parish council was the appointing authority for Metz and Benson, any action to remove either or both of them would have to come from the council.

The hospital’s Medical Executive Committee brought the issue of removing the two board members to the IMC board in the form of its own resolution during a special meeting on Aug. 7. Dr. Michelle Menard, the hospital’s chief of medical staff, read a resolution demanding the resignation of Metz and Benson. Of the 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.

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