The Iberia Parish Council took more than an hour Wednesday night hearing comments from the public and debating the wording of a substitute resolution before voting to support the hospital board’s call for an investigation into the actions of two IMC board members — but without echoing that board’s call for the resignation of Dr. David C. Benson and Frederick “Bozo” Metz.
The IMC Board of Commissioners passed a resolution Tuesday night calling for Benson and Metz to resign by Aug. 21. If they choose not to resign, the board authorized the administration to find a special counsel to investigate claims against the two board members to provide grounds for their removal.
At a special meeting of the IMC board on Aug. 6, board member Lynn Minvielle read a list of allegations against Metz during the board’s executive session. Those allegations would serve as the basis for an investigation. Benson has sought to distance himself from Metz since the issue of resignation or removal from the board has risen.
As was the case for the IMC board meeting Tuesday night, the council meeting room was packed Wednesday with supporters of outgoing IMC Chief Executive Officer Parker Templeton, several of whom spoke about the need for unity on the hospital’s board of commissioners.
The hospital’s chief of staff, Dr. Michelle Menard, told council members that the current schism on the board, which has been highlighted in the wake of Templeton’s resignation on July 25, will make it difficult for the hospital to move forward.
“The medical staff fear if this unrest is allowed to continue, it will be extremely difficult for any CEO to fill Mr. Templeton’s seat and furthermore will be a detriment to sustaining our current medical staff,” Menard said. “At present, the healthcare delivered at IMC has not been affected by this turmoil, but the future of our institution is at stake.”
In her remarks, Menard cited Templeton’s ability to recruit new physicians to the staff, bringing in 14 new physicians during his six-year tenure.
“If good physicians start leaving the hospital, IMC will follow the same path as Dauterive Hospital, St. Martin Hospital and Franklin Foundation,” Menard said.
Council Chairman Paul G. Landry took a moment to clarify some remarks Benson made Tuesday night, claiming council members had collaborated with physicians to institute a change in the hospital’s board membership. Landry made it clear he and District 6 Councilwoman Natalie Broussard had only taken part in the work of a liaison committee was to eliminate any issues with the hospital’s bylaws and support efforts to ease tensions on the hospital’s board.
Landry had the council take the IMC resolution, which initially called for Benson and Metz to resign, out of order at the front of the agenda. District 11 Councilman Brian Napier immediately offered a substitute resolution to allow the hospital board to conduct an investigation prior to any council action against the two board members.
Napier noted that he had voted in favor of placing Benson on the hospital board, against the recommendation of the hospital’s Medical Executive Committee.
“There were a lot of things said about those of us who voted for David Banson,” Napier said. “It was not my intent to go against the will of the doctors. In the end, y’all, each one of us have to sign off on what we do. I have the best interests of the hospital at heart.”
In the end, Napier made the motion to wait for the hospital board’s investigation before taking any action.
“Let’s have the investigation,” Napier said. “I support an investigation. To vote tonight to ask them to resign, I don’t think I can do that.”
Several other board members echoed the call for an investigation prior to a call for resignations.
“I couldn’t live with wanting to remove two board members with no proof,” District 2 Councilman Michael Landry said.
“I really think that the hospital board should do its own investigation then come back to the council,” District 10 Councilman Eugene Olivier said.
District 8 Councilman Ricky Gonsoulin brought up the issue of setting a timeline for the IMC board to come to the council, but Parish Legal Counsel Andy Shealy said that would “artificially tie” the hands of any special counsel.
“It could take 60 or 90 days,” Shealy said, drawing a loud groan from the crowd.
District 3 Councilman Tommy Landry said he was concerned that any action against board members would make it harder to recruit new members for the parish’s boards. District 4 Councilman Lloyd Brown asked if the IMC board could take these actions on its own.
“They do not have the authority to remove members,” Shealy said.
“Well, I can’t support this,” Brown said.
“Just to ask them to resign, the votes aren’t there,” Napier said. When he mentioned that he had spoken to Benson about his proposed resolution, there was a strong negative reaction from the audience.
“I’m just trying to support the investigation,” Napier said.
“They can do it without me,” Brown replied.
In the end, the council passed the resolution calling for the IMC board to immediately begin and investigation of Metz and Benson and forward the results to the council.
After the meeting, Menard seemed disappointed with the outcome.
“All they had to do was support the resolution we passed last night,” Menard said. “And they couldn’t even do that.”