The State of Iowa has ruled that the Winneshiek Medical Center Board of Trustees is guilty of several apparent violations of the state's Open Meetings Law.
In a letter delivered Tuesday to hospital officials, the State Auditor's Office wrote "We question the propriety of the numerous and lengthy closed sessions for 'strategic planning.'"
The letter was written to the hospital board following a complaint filed with the State Auditor's Office by decorahnews.com, which provided copies of hospital board agendas and minutes dating back to March of 2010.
Decorahnews.com wrote the Auditor's Office that the hospital board had held 14 closed door meetings lasting a total of over 900 minutes, with all the meetings described as only "strategic planning closed sessions." The Auditor's Office ruled that "Holding closed sessions without stating a specifically allowable section of (the Open Meetings Law) which would permit the closed session does not appear to comply with the statutory requirements of (the Open Meetings Law)."
However, the State Auditor's Office went beyond the issue raised by decorahnews.com that closed sessions held by the hospital board were not properly noticed to the public.
It also cited a hospital board meeting held November 30, 2010 at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, stating "this meeting does not appear to comply with (the State Open Meetings Law.)" The letter cited a portion of the state Open Meetings Law that requires "Each meeting shall be held at a place reasonably accessible to the public and at a time reasonably convenient to the public, unless for good cause such a place or time is impossible or impractical."
It also said the hospital must make available to the public the summaries of four closed door sessions held from March 31st of 2010 through January 5th of 2011.
The State Auditor's Office has requested the hospital provide a written response to the Auditor Office's letter by May 21st. A copy of the State Auditor Office's letter has also been sent to County Attorney Andy Van Der Maaten for his review.
To read the complete copy of the State Auditor Office's letter, click on the link below.