February 12, 2018
End of the Post Office Monarchy?
In recent months, complaints about the service and management at the local post offices have reached a fever pitch. In case you forgot, EstesTruth predicted this calamity 2 YEARS ago, when the 'new' post mistress began running off the experienced service providers- the contract carriers and postal employees that had served our community with personal, excellent service for decades.
Throughout the last 2 years, postal customers have suffered through all sorts of delivery and shipping issues that had not been such a problem before, or, had not been handled the way the new post mistress, Kim Chase, managed those concerns. Unfortunately, her way and customer service were not in the same universe, but more on her management failure later. First, lets take a look at the time line to get a better understanding of how it was allowed to be so bad for so long....
Many residents don't understand how the postal system works in Estes Park, so we'll try to explain it and give responsibility a face. Nationally, the US Postal Service handles mail distribution as an independent agency of the US federal government. That means you don't elect the managers of the USPS, but your elected representatives have some say in the USPS operations. (This will matter later in this story) Locally, the postmaster is essentially an independent ruler of all things postal, with so many layers of supervision and control above her that any problems are not only tough to report, but even harder to follow up and almost impossible to find anyone that has the ability to effect change in the case of a failing office (ie: Estes Park). Beneath the postmaster in Estes Park, there are a few USPS employees that are responsible for working the counter and sorting mail in Estes Park to the routes which are delivered by more contractors, the rural route carriers. By the way, the mail is delivered to the post office by way of a private contractor truck from Longmont each day.
Historically, the rural route carriers are who most of us associate with the post office, as we see them every day in their personal vehicles delivering each days mail, sometimes bearing stickers with US MAIL or yellow blinker lights- but mostly recognized by their familiar faces as they pass through our neighborhoods. At least, they used to be familiar. Now, those faces change so often, or are delivering the mail so late we cant see their faces because its dark. Those issues are the direct result of the postmaster, or postmistress in Estes Park. Here's where it gets weird. When the postmistress arrived in Estes Park (probably having been kicked off her last post), she moved in with a rural route carrier, drove that carriers car, and began pressing the best performing 'old' carriers to the door. To no ones surprise, the carriers that remained after the 'good mail carriers' were pushed out ended up 'winning' the bids for the routes that had now become available. But they didn't just operate one route, they were operating up to 3 routes, every day, at the great expense of the public who had become accustomed to mail delivery before dinnertime, like the rest of America. Now, fewer local carriers were making much more money, but our mail service went straight into the toilet. If you were paying enough attention to complain in her early days, the postmistress would ignore the complaint and let the issue continue. That went on for months, but Estes Park residents were better connected than she expected. Enter elected representatives and the USPS Consumer Affairs office, and things started to change. After beating our heads against the wall with postmistress Kim Chase, many business owners pursued a better answer than her standard "we're looking into it", and found their way to a level or two above her head. That sounded promising, even earning a visit from the USPS mucky-mucks, who visited Estes Park, interviewed customers, carriers and employees, then left the keystone problem exactly where she had landed, as postmistress. When the heat turned down, the antics continued.
For a timeline of problems, scroll below on this page and read all about it, or visit the Faceboook page "Estes Park Jibber Jabber". Every few weeks someone will voice the same problem, with the difference being that they are now affected and they want ANSWERS and CHANGE, dammit. NIMBY until its IMBY. Every time a problem comes up, dozens of others chime in with similar issues and more. What's the good in bitching? Nothing gets done even when you look the postal service in the eye and demand action, so why would public complaining have an impact?
Don't be fooled by the boilerplate line local management offers: that the employees are overworked, or the budget is short or blah blah blah.... It's a line. The problems exist because of poor management that has been allowed to deteriorate into what it is today. This is a management issue plain and simple. (Note: Except the postmistresses minion supervisor Cheryl, the employees at the post office work their butts off, covering the postmistress every single day, they don't deserve the wrath of the community, as they are trapped in a tough spot trying to balance sanity and careers).
This week, a new player in the 'make the post office better' cause emerged with decades of experience inside the postal service, and an inside track to affecting change by contacting the right people. That person is circulating a petition to demand change and sign your name in ink to tell the powers that be in the USPS that enough is enough.
If you haven't signed the petition yet (almost 100 signatures were gathered in the first 3 hours of circulation), you might want to attend a public event coming up at the library where you might be able to get some answers to questions, swap USPS war stories, or most importantly, add your name to the movement and demand that Kim Chase's boss get things under control. The best case scenario is that Chase moves on to another Monarchy in another town, if we're all OK with dumping her on them to save ourselves?
We are OK with it. Lets get the Post Office back in order, PLEASE. We have had enough, Postmaster General. Take back untouchable Kim Chase and find her something else to do.
COMMUNITY MEETING REGARDING POSTAL CONCERNS
FEBRUARY 26th 5:30pm - 8:45pm
ESTES PARK PUBLIC LIBRARY, HONDIUS ROOM
Hosted by active concerned citizens - No USPS representatives are expected to attend
If you can't make it to the meeting, or can't wait to take some action, drop by MedX on First Street (Open 5:30 a- 8p weekdays, 7a-4p Sat, 10a-4p Sun)... ask a staff member for the black folder behind the desk, signature and printed name are all we need on the petition.
Newspaper keeps stepping in it's own ****
Nearly 2 weeks ago, the Trail Gazette took a swipe at Park Hospital District board candidate Bert Bergland as they editorialized how wonderful the Pinkham 5 were and then instead of simply stating Bergland wasn't available for the candidate profiles, they took the opportunity to portray Bergland as a fraud.
ZACH CLEMENS (TG Editor): Hi Bert, Just wanted to let you know that I just used some of your comments from the original email, newspapers just don’t really send stories out before we print. But let me know if you have any issues with the story, I welcome all feedback. I did not ask any of the other candidates if they supplied the LWV questions before the forum unfortunately. Thanks! Zach Clemens
BERT BERGLAND: Zach, Got your message. Again, I will tell you I am merely the messenger. Bruce Carmichael very explicitly described Pinkham, leader of the hand-picked Pinkham 5, reading ALL his responses from a typed script. As a candidate (and physician) who for my lifetime has believed in honesty and professional ethics, and with Carmichael's consent, brought this matter to your and the LWV's attention. They have denied it, sending me a certified letter demanding I retract my "claims". I claimed nothing, only suggesting given the same information I received from Carmichael others should draw their own conclusions. I drew my conclusion and reported it to you. I have complete trust and faith in Bruce Carmichael; he is one of the most honest individual I know. He is a member of the Rotary Club of which I was a member. He believes in the Rotary Four Way Test ...as should Pinkham who is also a Rotarian. If Carmichael is suspicious, I accept his suspicion. He was the only one sitting next to Pinkham who could have observed this curious event. No one else, including the LWV was in a physical position to observe what Carmichael saw, so they can only conjecture. I also believe in the principles of Rotary and have for the four decades of my membership. It is up to others to decide if Pinkham has the same level of personal ethics to which he attests as a Rotarian. I do not judge Pinkham, but given Carmichael's observation only suggest everyone give due consideration. Contact Bruce Carmichael for further comment. I know he affirmed his observations to the LWV in their phone call intended to admonish him for telling me! Clearly this affirms that, contrary to your assertion, I did NOT decline to comment, only that I would comment in writing and wanted to read your intended report to affirm that it was accurate. You declined to permit that and as I suspected would happen, once again the TG has misrepresented the facts.
ZACH CLEMENS: Thanks for the reply Bert, so Can I quote this email or should I just say you declined to comment? Thanks! Zach
Bert Bergland responds: To be clear, I made no accusations or “claims” and only reported what I was told by Bruce Carmichael in whose honesty and veracity I have absolute trust. I simply suggested that voters should know what Bruce saw, told me and reaffirmed multiple times. He had no objection to my raising these questions. If I were to simply ignore such an observation, to let possible corrupt behavior pass without question or comment would in itself be dishonorable and against every precept of honesty I have ever practiced. Hence, I brought it to your attention at the TG. Here is the email in full I sent to Liz Zornes at the LWV on October 18th: [Linda, Bruce Carmichael noted Pinkham was reading all his question responses from a "typed script." Carmichael and I, Gerald Mayo and others are curious as to how that might be accomplished unless Pinkham (and his fellow interim board) were provided the questions (or a semblance thereof) before the forum. Isn't Mrs. Pinkham a member of the LWV? Let me ask point blank: was ANYONE including candidates provided the questions prior to the forum? Regards, Dr. Bergland] Two simple questions and no accusations. I did not receive a response from Ms. Zorne. I did receive a registered return receipt letter from the LWV expressing indignation at my implications and demanding a retraction. No such retraction will be forthcoming from me, of course, as I simply reported Carmichael’s observations, his suspicion of corruption (with which I agree would appear the case), so there is nothing to “retract.” Those who know and trust Mr. Carmichael as I do will draw their own conclusions given his observation. As for Mrs. Pinkham’s resignation from the LWV, that seems remarkably unnecessary, but does confirm she was a LWV member and I assume had a favorable relationship with her fellow members despite the claimed resignation. As regards the LWV claim that they asked questions from the audience, Gerald Mayo reported he submitted questions to the panel, but none of them were asked despite his clear inside knowledge and experience on the very Board the Pinkham 5 replaced. I submit it is apparent I am a fighter, a very independent thinker willing to take fire in order to make my thoughts known. As a board member, I will not relinquish this inherent curiosity and tenacity to simply be a “group think team player.” I will constantly question and investigate, and cause other board members to do the same in order that the public is fully aware of the circumstances at the EPMC. If that is the type of representative the public wants, then vote for Carmichael and me. If more rubber stamping group think is acceptable, then vote for the Pinkham 5. Sincerely, Dr. Bert Bergland
Struggling Trail Gazette still "Follows the Money"
Once again, our struggling small-town newspaper cannot be fair and even-handed. They seem intent on “beating a dead horse”, failing to realize they themselves may actually be the dying (if not already dead) horse! I reference the not-so-subtle prod at me while not raising any more pertinent issues of clear incompetence or failed public positions by any other candidates. We have all seen on a national scale over the past two years what personal damage such fake news (slanted, poorly researched, defamatory reporting) can inflict. And when the public does not hold disreputable news organizations to task, the dishonest, unethical behavior will continue unabated.
I personally refuse to any longer purchase the Trail Gazette primarily because I have learned it is biased, and in my opinion frequently tends to circumvent or ignore the truth.
This last edition does not deviate from the failure to provide all the facts, or exhibit unbiased reporting. First, they failed to make clear why I or John Meisner could not attend their inappropriately scheduled interrogation: I was working in Ft. Collins seeing patients, exercising that “clinical experience and knowledge” I possess and believe is so critical to the Board. FACT: I offered to respond to their questions in writing, but they declined to offer any written questions. Disingenuous to say the least, and clearly not in the interest of keeping the public informed. The second, they are clearly biased against me, attempting to undermine my candidacy by dredging up a completely irrelevant past controversy regarding my entrepreneurial effort to start a credible, honest and successful business. Their comment was clearly and intentionally inflammatory. They again perpetrated a plethora of lies and supported “yellow journalism” by carelessly and unethically implying my business endeavor undertook deception “with careful wording - that allowed them to duck state regulators.” FACT: This report they reference was declared personally to me unethical, shoddy and poorly researched by none other than the president of the Society of Professional Journalist. It violated a number of journalistic ethical standards, and in my opinion the TG is equally guilty of yellow journalism since its editors will not cease committing the same breaches in journalistic ethics by perpetrating the libel of the Gazette. FACT: Three different legal firms believed GPA and its defamed Board members had a solid case of libel against the Gazette. The only reason my organization and its Board did not sue the Gazette was simple: a lack of $250,000 in funds to pay the estimated legal fees to undertake the lawsuit. FACT: The business I founded (Guardian Patient Advocates) not only did not “duck state regulators”, what the TG conveniently fail to confirm was that the business, a physician-staffed patient advocacy service of national scale, did not require any state regulation! FACT: the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) had no interest in our organization because it had no jurisdiction over our business model. GPA failed for a very practical reason…we were unable to raise the hundreds of thousands in investor funding that would have allowed a national launch. This TG tactic, retribution for my previously labeling them as perpetrators of fake news, is clearly directed at subverting my candidacy. Curiously, no other candidate’s personal or public past was questioned, namely the clear and glaring lack of the interim Board candidates’ personal healthcare experience or knowledge. This incompetence of the entire interim board was clearly demonstrated at their meeting on August 26th, when they undertook an inept and inappropriate vote to contract for hospitalist services without any proper or logical discussion as to pros and cons. The failure to offer a public call for RFPs, and have public discussion regarding several competing potential contractors is not only inept, but may be illegal. Yet, the TG fails to exercise impartiality by reporting this glaring ineptitude by the interim Board. This glaring incompetence and lack of public responsibility is the sort of pertinent information the TG should be reporting. The voters should be incensed by such behavior by both the interim board and the TG. FACT: The TG also forgot to mention one of their own TG editorial board members, a highly respected and ethical local business person, was also a member of the Board of Directors for Guardian Patient Advocates, as was a famous, retired NFL quarterback and Super Bowl winner, and a second prominent Estes Park business owner and international entrepreneur. Our GPA corporate attorney continues to be a highly respected expert in medical and business ethics, and would never have condoned unethical or seedy behavior by GPA. Such individuals would not have associated themselves with any disreputable behavior…as neither would I. Furthermore, what the TG fails to report is the real issue of blatant political cronyism that installed this current hand-selected interim hospital board. The joke that was the County Commissions’ interim Board selection process was so apparently contrived and predetermined that the interviews of the 17 candidates was nothing but of a waste of everyone’s’ valuable time. The TG was silent either for want of journalistic competence or because they tacitly supported the “fix.” My response to the Trail Gazette: close your doors, cease publication if you cannot provide in-depth, perceptive, fair, honest and impartial reporting. You are regularly on the wrong side of local issues, likely because your editor, Mr. Romero, does not live or participate in the life of our community. I implore the PHD voters to elect me to the EPMC hospital board of trustees for several good and rational reasons, not the least of which is to show your distaste for the unfairness and bias of the Trail Gazette. Pass the word! Get out to vote for me.
Perhaps my first motion to the Board if elected is to severely curtail the public advertising dollars the EPMC provides to the TG? I’m just saying.
Signed, Dr. Bert Bergland
Current Hospital Board = A Perfect Example of everything that's wrong with status quo government
A DEMONSTRATION of a RUBBER STAMP BOARD
As an example of precisely why clinical experience and insight is critically necessary I suggest you take time to watch the on-line video of the hospital Board meeting on August 26th and judge for yourself. (Start at minute :55 to be efficient)
Click here to view the video
CROSSING THE LINE of PROPRIETY?
Interim - an interim advisory body: provisional, temporary, pro tem, stopgap, short-term, caretaker, acting, transitional, makeshift, improvised, impromptu...
The impudence of an appointed (not elected), interim board to make such major financial commitments, or saddle the soon-to-be elected Board with costs of strategic planning rather than have the propriety to wait until a publicly chosen board is in place is disturbing and suggests a high level of disrespect for the best interest of the citizens and the new Board members. This interim Board was not elected. These people were appointed in a suspect process that smacked of political cronyism that was so blatantly evident these interim board members and Pinkham in particular should be ashamed. Despite their certain awareness that their charge was to simply right the ship and assure a timely election. Yet, they have presumed to take full command and exercise authority they simply should not ethically or morally assume. This is insubordination and an insult to the citizens who own EPMC. What we now have at EPMC is a interim cabal, hand-selected by ex-mayor Bill Pinkham, appointed and installed last May thru old-fashioned political cronyism with the County Commissioners. This group is clearly under Pinkham’s thumb, responsive to his imperious ego. As a reminder, as Mayor, Bill Pinkham oversaw the approval and building of the multimillion- dollar Event Center, parking garage, and supported the Loop. Not a stellar record of successful management. Now he has overseen this hospitalist debacle, an enormously expensive, unnecessary endeavor. His willingness to spend taxpayer dollars wastefully is well-established. I have a great respect for our CEO, Dr. Leaming. I believe he has taken on a task of enormous proportion. In keeping with his sense of propriety, he would be well-advised not to move forward with that dubiously approved contract until the duly elected board has an opportunity to approve such an expenditure. This election, my friends, is not a local, small town popularity contest. Unlike the Town Board, the EPMC Board is not a Board that should be comprised entirely of people inexperienced, unknowledgeable and naive about the very basic nature of healthcare delivery at the patient/doctor level, for those sorts of Trustees are gullible to the whims and influences of special interests…the hospitalist debacle to wit. This hospital board is charged with legal and fiduciary oversight of a $60,000,000 healthcare delivery and medical personnel budget, influencing the very welfare of the ill and injured in our community. Frankly, none of this interim board has life-experienced in this arena.
The Park Hospital District Board and consequently our community would benefit tremendously from the input of true healthcare professionals such as Dr. Bergland, and Bruce Carmichael, who are the only such candidates. Both should be overwhelmingly supported and elected to the PHD Board of Trustees.
The election will be an important decision for Estes Park, for many reasons in addition to those above that you won't believe, even when we offer the documents and facts for your own review.
EPMC Board President 'encourages' candidate to drop out of upcoming election
As you can tell by reading the last 3 days on EstesTruth, when it rains, it pours. This email was forwarded to us, which was already submitted to the CEO at EPMC. The dead quiet at the Park Hospital District since a temporary board was seated by 2 of 3 county commissioners should have been a red flag. Kind of like when your 2 year old is playing quietly in the kitchen- you'd better get out the mop! And here, when the PHD placeholder board is silent, including any meaningful communication about the upcoming election deadlines- you can be assured that there's trouble in the hospital kitchen.
If this playground behavior doesn't encourage average citizens to run for a seat on the PHD Board, we will get what we deserve (and that, dear readers, will be another board doing what they please, community sentiment be damned).
Surely, more information about this topic will be covered by one of the newspapers in town? Perhaps a well spun response by EPMC Media Master Kerrie Hill? Looking over all of Pinkham's correspondence and connections there appears to be some trouble with the placeholder board. Read articles below for more details.
Temporary Hospital Board: F A I L
The Larimer County Commissioners’ one task when they appointed an interim Park Hospital District board last May was to appoint a group capable of organizing a special election, potentially to replace themselves on the hospital board.
Even in this task, they have proved deficient. The current interim board has certainly set up an election date, late enough in the six month window to allow themselves to argue they are settled in, and thus the best candidates for the job. The only problem is, they have failed to adequately publicize cut-off dates for filing of potential replacement candidates, to the point where, even if local newspapers begin with all due alacrity and haste to publicize these cut-off dates, it is essentially too late for qualified candidates other than currently seated board members to mull over this decision and file.
What a joke. It’s not as if our papers don’t willingly provide ample room for hospital-related fluff. See how just today, communities plural were profusely thanked for their decision to implement the use of security badges. How many communities did the hospital consult, how many outside municipalities were required to vet this landmark step forward? Sure, other hospitals got magnetic key cards decades ago, but we are clearly embarking on a new era with our shiny badges.
Here's some real news: Hospital administrators and special election officials, when asked if local newspapers were ever going to mention, perhaps as an actual article rather than buried in fine print, that the cut-off date for filing as a hospital board candidate was September 1 (meaning next Friday, meaning one newspaper has exactly one remaining change to avail itself of publishing this information before it is too late, giving its readers exactly 8 hours to find, process, notarize, and return the application once it is located, and the other newspaper two chances, but don’t hold your breath, cuz this Wednesday ain’t going to happen), responded by saying: "Only if the newspapers write something." Meaning that concerned taxpayers, not interim board members, were required to approach local newspaper editors and publishers and beg for something to be written. No hospital-employed information officer or CEO on his/her own could be bothered to generate a press release about the election prior to next Friday. Why should they?
On YouTube, this gets filed under the general category of FAIL. This inability on the part of the current interim hospital board to make an upcoming election transparent and open to every taxpaying citizen in the district is not because of their simple ineptitude (well, it ultimately devolves to that), but because of their knowing ineptitude. The four interim members who were appointed by a sympathetic two-panel board of commissioners and desire continuing to fill these spots did their level best to eliminate all competition. And they would have, it not for those pesky kids with their Scooby-Do snacks. Dang meddlers.
Now that the interim board's willing lack of transparency has been exposed, just as a matter of fairness the date for candidate registration should be extended, but the likelihood of that happening is about the same as the likelihood of McGregor knocking out Mayweather this weekend with an uppercut from his erect penis.
The EDC obviously, desperately wants a Wellness Center, despite it having zero chance of success. Ask yourself, does Estes Park have a tertiary referral hospital or medical school within 20 miles? If you have to Google what “tertiary referral hospital” means, you aren’t yet ready to have a Wellness Center. Does Estes Park sit anywhere close to sea level? Does is have a long history of any of the following: Long-established world-class facilities or nationally-recognized institutions providing state-of-the-art medical diagnostics and treatment/yoga/meditation/cutting-edge dietetics or nutrition/ability to consistently provide farm-to-table foodstuffs/homeopathic or chiropractic or herbal or acupuncture or, seriously, anything alternative-medicine related, if we’re not going the route of actual medicine?
So who the heck is going to flock here to spend their first week getting acclimated to altitude (how many CEOs work at 7500 feet, unless they live in Quito, Ecuador?) and the next three weeks eating crap dished out by a kitchen that can’t even pass inspection at the county level, wondering why their nearest hospital doesn’t have a MICU/SICU/NICU/or, seriously, any staff featured in the back of their in-flight magazine, or anything not available better and easier to brag to their friends about at any of the other places they could have gone, i.e., actual already established Wellness Centers?
Get real. And find someone at the hospital who can proofread copy. CEOs are really quick to dismiss Wellness Centers unable to distinguish between the singular and possessive plural.
EDC is awesome (according to the EDC)
But maybe not? Here's a letter to the director of the Estes Park Economic Development Corporation (aka the EDC) - which also went to local town leaders and county commissioners:
8/7/17: Update Read an interesting tangent to this story on the Sept 7, 2017 article on the governnment page about Dangerous Criminals
Hospital Board temps misbehaving/
New Board Member Deadline Sept 1
There's has been a curious (deafening) silence over the past three months regarding the goings-on at the Park Hospital District. Rumors are circulating regarding potential candidates for the Board positions that should be contested in three months from now, but I have seen and heard nothing. Since the "fix" was in when the Pinkham Five were appointed by just 2 members of the county commissioners, word on the street is that four of the five now plan to run for election. Surprisingly (inappropriately) the current pseudo-Board (unelected) have been pushing for approval of the $10 million Wellness Center.
No matter what the plan is with the wellness center, it's not for this "board" to determine. Hearken back to the assignment you all were given when you were appointed as "Bill's Friends" by the 2 commissioners that actually showed up, and called upon their old friend Bill to solve the smelly PHD problem. That assignment had ONE objective: PLAN AN ELECTION to allow the community to elect board members. You are all placeholders, now act like it.
Deadline to apply for the position of PHD Director is Sept 1 at 4pm. This is a golden opportunity for FIVE new board members, as the Park Hospital District is positioned to make some great forward strides and improvement for staff and patients. There are big decisions to make, and this district needs members who are not part of the status quo, government professionals. Come on down! See the election notice under the EPMC image.
The NAACP is comin' to town
This Saturday, Aug. 5, beginning at 11 a.m., a group of state NAACP representatives and like-minded individuals from Estes Park will gather in Bond Park to commemorate the 100 year anniversary of the "Silent March," drawing attention to an Estes Park that still has room to grow in making our businesses and our neighborhoods and our mountains accessible to all people regardless of color, creed, physical need, or circumstance.
It has become one of the worst-kept secrets in town that various private subdivisions in Estes Park and those straddling its borders still have restrictive covenants in place preventing non-white individuals from owning or leasing land within these neighborhoods.
Whether removal of these offensive covenants have been overlooked or simply deemed irrelevant in light of federal anti-discrimination laws passed in the 1960s, they should be relegated to past history rather than present illegal practice, by unanimous proclamation and recording at the county level by their respective homeowners' associations.
For Stanley Heights to still pass along by property transfer a restriction against "use, occupation, or sale, lease, or gift to any person or persons of any race except the white race," for example, or Fort Morgan Colony to restrict ownership to "those of reputable character and Caucasian race," with similar wording for lot owners on the Davis Hill Buena Vista subdivision, just to name a few, represents ignorance of the fine print at best, and at worst a lazy willingness to propagate the indefensible racism of our past.
Anyone is welcome to join the demonstration.
= Same mistake for hospital
--Bert Bergland challenges commissioners to do right
I agree with the TG editorial”, is that what we need is a “strong hospital board of directors. What is not defined is the meaning of “strong.” The responsibility of trusteeship of a medical institution is daunting. While laudable, experience on previous public boards and commissions is of limited benefit when confronting the complicated nuances of healthcare delivery. Dealing with medical providers at all levels, remotely understanding the Medicare/Medicaid and health insurance systems, and directing a medically erudite CEO without being a collective “rubber stamp” to that same CEO employee is a formidable board responsibility. If this new board consists again of people with no in-depth understanding or experience in clinical medical care, EPMC and the board will simply be at risk of again becoming irrelevant rubber stamps on critically important issues. Frankly stated, the medical care process is foreign to lay-people. Understanding how the intricacies of medical care delivery really works, knowing what is truly essential to provide health services in our community while reigning in unnecessary expenditure requires a board with some degree of medical experience and intuition. Even a temporary board must have the insight to set a new direction; the next six months will prove pivotal to the future direction and success of EPMC. To be successful will require one or more Board members with in-depth clinical medical experience, which is exactly what has been missing on the board for years. To reconstitute a new Board and neglect this essential ingredient would be to repeat the same mistake that led us to the current disaster. Frankly, installing the group proposed by Mr. Pinkham is a serious mistake due purely to the absence of any knowledgeable and clinically experienced medical member. Bill Pinkham’s conclusion that we need an “experienced, diverse board”, while attractive rhetoric, requires more than merely “extensive experience working on other boards and commissions”. These attributes alone are simply not adequate qualifications to take on the idiosyncrasies of health care in today’s environment. Such inexperience and the accompanying group naiveté does not bode well for the future of the EPMC. That Bill Pinkham’s group selection should be summarily endorsed by the County Commission at such a critical time for EPMC’s future is simply not advisable or acceptable. Anyone interested in serving should be individually considered based on experience. Granted, the proffered Pinkham group might prove a quick and easy solution, it is definitely not advisable or appropriate. Should the County Commission choose to approve this clandestinely chosen and proffered group, then once again we will have a hospital board devoid of a medically experienced clinical physician capable of offering insights and wise guidance otherwise unavailable within the board membership. To simply do the same thing over and over expecting a better result is, my friends, the definition of insanity. Go to the Larimer County website at http://www.larimer.org/bocc/ and suggest they NOT summarily appoint the Pinkham group, and that they give due consideration to all applicants, particularly those such as myself, who have the medical and past board experience required at such a critical juncture for EPMC.
and Sally Park
Hopefully the commissioners will be reminded of the last Estes Park municipal election in which the 'status quo' of experienced leaders was removed from office in exchange for qualified community representatives- a trend we hope continues with the PHD board, and the town board and on and on. Estes Park is way too heavy on 'Qualified Leaders' and organizations that know what's right for Estes Park, that's for sure.
Power to the People.
Postal problems finally boil to the surface
EstesTruth predicted this failure way back in April of 2016 when the new postmaster kicked out one of the most loyal, highest performing contractors that delivered the mail for 16 years (scroll to the bottom of this 'Community' page and read the first article).
The current postmistress has singlehandedly dismantled the efficient local post office into a collection of angry, scared employees and contractors who have been gradually contributing to a substandard embarrassment of mail delivery. A number of experienced, competent employees and contractors have been shoved out the door by this leader, and despite dozens of specific reports and cases filed with the Consumer Affairs office, Postmaster General and other hard to reach contact points- the service still sucks.
Will it get better? At this stage, it looks like a change in leadership is the only solution- to try and start over.
During this apparent local phase of removing incompetent leadership, no matter what their position is. Estes Valley locals have shown in the last several months that incompetence will not be tolerated, as evidenced by the recent recall election effort at the Park Hospital District, and the renewed interest in removing Town Trustees who have violated public trust.
Of course, the Post Office leader is nearly an untouchable position from the public's perspective, but the outcry is only going to get worse as the service levels from the Estes Park Post Office continue to circle the drain.
Customers MAY complain locally, but we can nearly guarantee your concerns will fall on incompetent deaf ears. Contact Senator Bennett or Representative Polis to share your concerns about something they CAN influence a change with, so we can just mail a letter without losing sleep (or receive a check/bill/card/package...).
Entire Hospital Board Resigns -
Their final jab at the community ?!?
Today, the Park Hospital District notified employees with a mass email that the entire Board of Directors would be resigning, effective May 1st.
In what might be their final act of defiance against the public, it appears that the Board has made a group decision without following Sunshine Laws which require making decisions in front of the public they serve.
The Colorado Sunshine law states that all meetings of three or more members of any local public body where any business is discussed must be open to the public. The law goes on to require that proper notice must be given to the public a minimum of 24 hours prior to the meeting, and that official minutes must be kept of any meeting, including executive sessions. Those executive sessions are where the PHD has made some business decisions (by their own admission in previous public meetings), but are just a part of the problem where board was operating with such disregard for the public.
Despite the impression gleaned from articles in the Estes Park News and Trail Gazette that the recall effort could end, they are wrong. The Board has an obligation to set a recall election date at their next regular meeting, April 21st, due to the uncomfortable fact- that they have yet to acknowledge as a board- that 1,500 signatures were gathered which demand the recall of these 3 elected officials. Unfortunately for them, a promise of resignation does not stop the legal process that they caused to go into action with their poor performance. According to the Recall Committee, their efforts will continue moving forward until all of the proper legal questions have been addressed, including the expectation that the board set the recall election date on the 21st.
Comically, the newspapers simultaneously 'reported' (or cut & pasted Kerrie Hills Press Release from EPMC) that the mass resignation was the result of the mediation process and that the 'board decided' to take this action. We don't remember the required public meeting to make that group decision, and that, dear readers is business as usual for the PHD board- what they want, when they want on their terms. Note to Board: Mediation is not exempt from public meetings if more than 3 members met at the same time, and to make a board decision- even by email- you must have your meetings in front of your voters.
This has been a real-life 6th grade soap opera, and it appears that the ending promises to be as dramatic as the incompetence. Seems like they took the least embarrassing way out, at the expense of members Gerald Mayo and Steve Murphree who appear to have - again - put the community ahead of their own personal interests.
This smooth move of group resignation and group statement that their 'resignations are in no way an acknowledgement of any wrongdoing' might feel like they are off the hook, but hardly. This tactic would seem to provide an excuse for Diana or Chuck when they apply for their next community leadership position- that is was a 'group' thing, but let's not let them off the hook that easy. They botched it from start to finish, and they barely escaped after getting caught. Their culpability (and that of the PHD after they leave) for their actions is not absolved by a resignation, and those matters may haunt them for years if a 'plaintiff' decides to question decisions the PHD board made improperly. There are many expensive decisions that have been made under cover of executive session, and without proper minutes. There's an entire series of news stories in this concept alone- but will local papers look into it? Ha. Advertising money rules unbiased reporting.
We will update this story as it develops... and we promise not to copy the hospital memos and pass them off to you as 'news'.
Read the exact text from Hill's release, including her number if you have any questions:
April 6, 2017
For Immediate Release:
As a result of a mediation process conducted for the Board of Directors of the Park Hospital District, all five members of the Board have submitted their resignations effective May 1, 2017. As a result of this action, the Larimer County commissioners will begin the process of seeking replacements for these Director positions. Though each of the members of the Board have their own reasons for resigning, they agreed that as a board, they needed to take the lead in working towards reconciliation between Estes Park Medical Center and the Estes Valley community. With their decision to step down the community will not be subjected to a recall election. They each sought their elected seat because they cared deeply about the Medical Center and its patients. The various recall efforts have impeded the new CEO from moving forward in developing a sound strategic vision for the Medical Center and its future in serving our citizens and visitors. The Board realized that their ability to fulfill their responsibilities has been limited by deep internal and external divisions, and each has individually agreed to not seek election or selection to this Board in the future. The Board members resignations are in no way an acknowledgement of any wrong doing by any member of the Board. Each Board member decided to step aside from the Board seats for the betterment of the Medical Center and community. The Board stated that they are proud to have hired Dr. Larry Leaming as the new CEO and encourage everyone to support him as he moves forward and they ask for support of the new Board as it gets seated. The Board members also continue to support EPMC and look forward to its continued growth and success.
Contact: Kerrie Hill, Public information Officer Estes Park Medical Center
Phone: 970-577- 4390 Fax: 970-586- 3408
Recall Election a Go
With a very wide safety margin of 200+ votes in excess of the 300 required to force a recall election, the Park Hospital District (PHD) Recall Committee submitted their petitions for verification on March 22nd. The PHD Designation Election Official (DEO) Lindsey McLellan now has 5 days by state law to verify the signatures, then schedule the recall election if the signatures are accepted. After seeing the level of detail the PHD Recall Committee handled the petitions with, we'd be surprised if she disqualifies a single signer. Not to worry, the recall committee did their job well, and included over 500 signatures for each board member to be recalled, shattering the minimum standard and guaranteeing an election will be held. Not to be overlooked- Diana Vanderploeg was re-elected with 317 votes, so there should be a pretty loud message being received by Diana & her compatriots.
The board members are not recalled until an election is held (at the expense of the PHD /aka Community tax payers) and after the campaigning has concluded, the votes will determine if these incompetent directors will be shown the door or if they will hang onto their empire. The 'campaign' to recall the directors will likely become even more uncomfortable as the recall committee spreads out to offer voters EPMC documents and facts that support the recall claim that Diana Vanderploeg, Chuck Levine and Ryan White have NOT served the best interests of the community.
In the last several weeks, some supportive letters to the editor and newspaper editorials have appeared in the Trail Gazette, but they are tainted with family and social circle friends, and have never been accompanied by an iota of facts or documents to refute the claims of incompetence being raised by the recall committee. The case they make is essentially "These people have worked hard and served the community and they are nice- so let them do their job".
This week the pro-Diana/Chuck/Ryan people played a desperate yet interesting card that was front page (we heard) Trail Gazette news - after they pressured the owners of Stanley Village to DEMAND that the recall committee be kicked out of the abandoned Taco Bell building, where the PHD recall committee had set up as a central location for petition signatures. Too hot of a topic for Greg Wheeler, owner of the property. Bill Van Horn, also an owner of the property, claimed he didn't realize how contentious this issue was when he agreed to the use of the space.
It would appear, using only facts and history to make this claim, that the pro-Diana/Chuck/Ryan people are guilty of using underhanded, nasty tactics to protect their people in power- and in stark contrast the PHD Recall Committee just keeps on providing facts and documents in a civil manner to educate the voters and protect the hospital. The opinions and editorial comments on EstesTruth may have created some uncomfortable vibes, but when you examine the facts and uncover the truth, it's true that this website is candid and frank - and that makes you uncomfortable. No sugar coating here, readers.
Perhaps now that there are some tangible numbers printed on paper with over 500 individual signatures demanding change, Chuck, Diana and Ryan will make a responsible decision and do what IS right for the Hospital district. May we suggest the next step (copy and paste this text to an email then click send):
Date: (insert todays date)
To: Lindsey McLellan
cc: CEO Larry Leaming, member Diana Van Derploeg, Ryan White, Gerald Mayo, Steve Murphree, Chuck Levine
I resign from the PHD Board, effective immediately.
(Insert name here)
This will solve many problems for you and the community, and free you of this troublesome disaster you have brought upon yourselves.
Does the Hospital Board matter?
Short answer: Yes!
Long answer: Oh, Yes. The Park Hospital District Board has stuck its fingers into some important community wide issues, here are two you may not have felt the pain of, yet:
The Wellness Center was the poster child/sacrificial lamb for a project that allowed Stanley Hotel owner John Cullen to get his hands on the coveted "Lot 4" in front of the hotel. The community was wooed by Cullen and the starry eyed hospital board into approving the sale of the Town owned land to the private land baron in a community vote. That land has been the subject of other local interest and legal actions, but it was the star power of Cullen that captivated the Hospital Board members along with Cullens Town Board buddies, who all worked together to push the community past the tipping point and approve the sale. That entire project was in the hands of the "insignificant" Hospital District Board, who failed to make a decision in the best interest of their district, and have been left with merely an opportunity to build a wellness center, but can't even remember where the paperwork is - scroll down the page to watch Ryan White wonder aloud "what ever happened to that agreement"? Not to mention funding, partnership and other embarrassing leadership failures along the way- the PHD Board bungled this deal, and lost the communities land to a "wealthy" land developer in the process. While the Hospital District Board explained why the project wasn't seeing much success, Cullen shuffled his dollar bills around and built himself a new hotel! Ah, capitalism.
Before the Wellness Center main event got underway, EPMC had been buying single family homes to the North of the EPMC campus, and threatening concerned property owners and the almighty Town of Estes Park with their government powers of doing anything-they-damn-well-please on their new land.
This upscale hotel addition at the Stanley Hotel was made possible by the PHD Board, who went along with the Stanley owners master plan to build a wellness center- and maybe his own accommodation building. The Aspire Residences went up in record time despite some mid-project delays due to funding problems.
Hospital Campus Land Grab Key:
Yellow box: Parking lot planned across 3 backyards adjacent to the EPMC campus
Green Star: Houses they have purchased and are now apartments for nightly use
Red star: House they badgered the owner to sell, but lost out to an actual family buying a home
Blue star: House they rent apartments for nightly use
With shady leadership at the helm of the district, EPMC had 'proposed' a parking lot be built across the backyards of several homes, and they were converting the single family homes into apartments, zoning laws be damned. The parking lot stalled out, but the homes have been changed to apartments with traffic in and out for 24 hours shifts and commercial junk storage and maybe even a classroom, according to Sam Radke, who was once a leader at EPMC 'in the old days', several generations of leaders- but only a few years ago.
We have a sitting Hospital District Board who has shown that they can't keep track of a meeting recording or take good enough notes to remember who said what at a critical meeting- among a litany of other incompetence- and what can you do about it? Who will get them under control? One person: YOU.
A board member, once elected, is free to act, fail to act, act incompetently or completely freak out and the only way to get them under control and restore order is a recall election, for they are under no one's supervision- they are the highest authority in their district. A recall election is costly, full of hassles and they don't happen very often. Board members know this, and right now are counting on the roadblocks to keep themselves safe from YOU, the only person who can restore order to the Park Hospital District. Each signature on the recall petition matters, and each vote come election time will make a difference. The poor leadership of todays PHD has already taken it's toll on our community, and without some corrective action you can expect things will get worse quickly. Please take a moment out of your busy day and lend a hand to the folks that are doing all of the heavy lifting in the recall effort- "many hands make light work.".
The PHD Recall Committee has moved into a new phase of the recall and has erected a website, and is holding regular public sessions to sign the petition for recall- but just for a few more days.
TOO HOT for EstesTruth??
A website we have not seen before was forwarded to our attention this morning, and interestingly on the front page (the only page) we find the text of a submission to EstesTruth.org that was received more than a couple of weeks ago. It's pretty hot, and we admit that we may have dragged our feet on publishing... then they called us out on it: "Too Hot For EstesTruth.org" the headline reads, then they publish the opinion piece in full.
Is it a parody, or real life? The comments about the new 'editorial board' at EstesTruth are well said, and we get it. And we agree.
CEO Leaming Scolds, Praises and LEADS
In the last couple of weeks we've heard from a dozen EPMC staffers who related instances that they were given the evil eye about discussing or signing the circulating petitions that demand a Hospital Board recall. The pressure was put on by 'old leadership' at EPMC, and this week the 'new leader' has spoken with truth.
In a facility wide staff email, new CEO Larry Leaming accurately stated the rights of the employees to be involved in the current community effort to stage a recall of 3 board members. In the same email, he warned employees to stop representing others when they expressed their opinion and not to participate in the recall effort while on company time. All true, and finally, an official comment that acknowledges the recall effort is a real life event (unlike incumbent board leadership, who have yet to acknowledge or address community concerns and the formal recall effort underway).
Larry Leaming, CEO of the Estes Park Medical Center joined EPMC in January 2017
Wed (8), Thurs (9), Friday (10)
10:00 am - 1:30 pm
Larimer County Office Bldg
1601 Brodie Ave
5:00 - 7:00 pm
Ed's Cantina upstairs
Hopefully there is some internal leader training scheduled to correct leadership failures which have followed the poor example set by the incumbent board, which will pave the way for new leadership from the top down, who we hope will preserve the staff and facility as a whole. Albeit their own consequence of following the wrong leader, we expect there may have to be some difficult decisions in order to get the ship turned around. The path to success will be sweet for a fresh district board and upper level leadership as the community hospital comes back from a historic low point once the old leadership is dumped.
February 28, 2017Recall Effort Moving Quickly- Events Added
The PHD Recall Committee reported that during their first petition signing event held Sunday the 26th they already collected 1/3 of the total number (300) of certified signatures that they need to cause a recall election which would be then paid for by the Park Hospital District. Responding to demand for more opportunity to sign petitions by residents, the recall committee scheduled 3 additional events this week:
Larimer County Conference Room located at 1601 Brodie Avenue. next to the HS football field.
BELOW: Agenda for the PHD meeting 2/28/17
Size : 43.079 Kb
Type : pdf
Tuesday Feb 28 10am - 12:30 pm at the Larimer County Offices 1601 Brodie Ave (across hall from license plate office)
Wednesday Mar 1 2pm - 4:30pm at the Larimer County Offices 1601 Brodie Ave (across hall from license plate office)
Thursday Mar 2 4pm - 8pm at Ed's Cantina 390 East Elkhorn Ave (event room upstairs)
Kathy Asche, speaking for the recall group dispelled Hospital Board President Diana Van Der Ploegs characterization of the recall group as a small vocal minority and stated that the supporters of the recall were from "all corners of the community". Some residents have expressed caution about "blindly signing a recall petition" based on web stories and rumors, to which the recall committee has invited anyone on either side of the issue to attend one of the petition events and review the documents that support the issues behind the recall.
The response of the elected board has been nothing short of remarkable, with some obvious differences in opinion among board members about how to handle the community concerns. Newly elected board members Gerald Mayo and Steve Murphree have been good community listeners and open about their concerns with issues that the 3 incumbent board members Diana Van Der Ploeg, Ryan White and Chuck Levine have been accused of. The remarkable part is how the board is 'officially' handling the concerns. The issue of community concern or recall hasn't been included on any regular meeting agenda since the public began showing up at meetings, so there has been no board-wide opportunity for discussion of issues or solutions. In order to have a conversation about board issues with the entire board, that conversation must be undertaken in front of the public. It hasn't. Any board commentary about the issues during meetings have been raised diplomatically by the members Murphree and Mayo during board comment sections of the meetings, who have then been admonished by President Diana Van Der Ploeg for voicing their opinions, or even listening to public commentary. The Hospital District has another regular board meeting scheduled this afternoon at 3pm, and the agenda again shows no indication of a conversation about community concerns or the recall notice that the board received several weeks ago. Notably, Van Der Ploeg approves and effectively controls the agenda before publication.
So where are the board conversations about this little recall problem occurring? We can only guess that board members on either side are conferring out of public view, against the spirit of public meeting laws that are in place to maintain accountability with the voters who elected them. Unfortunately this board has damaged their trust relationship with the community so badly, and no one is really sure why they are doing what they are doing that the only remaining course of action appears to be to hold a recall, then an election to select new community representatives for our 'community hospital'.
Unfortunately for the 'board members doing the job they were elected to do', they have been caught not doing what they were elected to do, and fortunately there are citizens who have educated themselves with PHD documents to understand the facts that have been hidden from view for many months or years. Local voters should be proud of their neighbors who have taken on the daunting challenge of fighting for what is right, and preventing further decline at the Estes Park Medical Center. Taking on (publicly funded) government entities at any level is hard work. We appreciate it.
Board Meeting today (Tues 2/28) at 3pm in the Timberline Conference Room at EPMC
Hospital Board Recall Formally Begins Sunday Feb 26th
The Park Hospital District (PHD) Recall Committee has announced the first event to gather signatures for their official start of the recall petition drive, to be held Sunday February 26th from 4 to 8 pm in the upstairs banquet room at Ed's Cantina located at 390 East Elkhorn Ave. The Recall Committee has also released the text of the petitions that they will circulate to force the recall election of 3 sitting board members on the PHD Board: Diana Van Der Ploeg, Chuck Levine and Ryan White. The petitions were prepared by attorneys working for the recall committee and funded by the citizens group, and have been approved by the PHD attorneys. The petitions in their final form may be viewed in the files at right below the logo image.
A recall process is very sensitive to proper procedure and legal formalities that have resulted in a well reviewed set of documents and training for volunteers that will be gathering the signatures from concerned residents of the Park Hospital District. Events will be scheduled around the community to permit anyone interested to read and sign the petition that calls for an election to be scheduled that would determine whether the contested board members remain in office or not. The petition itself would not determine if those board members are removed, it would just cause an election to be held. That election would be paid for by the Park Hospital District, and scheduled in the near future. Recall supporters have called for the board members to save the PHD voters the time and effort of a costly election by acknowledging the issues and stepping down voluntarily from their positions, but each board member has denied any wrongdoing nor even acknowledged the legitimacy of the issues that have been raised.
Recall petition Diana Van Der Ploeg PDF 2_25.pdf
Size : 79.549 Kb
Type : pdf
Recall petition Chuck Levine PDF 2_25.pdf
Size : 83.371 Kb
Type : pdf
Recall petition Ryan White PDF 2_25.pdf
Size : 78.956 Kb
Type : pdf
The PHD Recall Committee said that at the petition signature events they will make available records from Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) requests including emails, meeting minutes, and other documents that support the objective of a recall election for public inspection. They will also provide representatives to answer any questions about the issues and signature pages for supporters to sign. There is a separate petition for each board member, and must be signed in person by any resident of the PHD. Additional events will be announced next week. Only 300 valid signatures are required to force the election, but the group anticipates a much higher number considering existing support they have been pledged.
WHERE: Ed's Cantina 390 E Elkhorn Ave (upstairs event room) 4:00 - 8:00pm
February 23, 2017
Hospital Recall Gains Traction as former EPMC CEO Speaks Out
"It has been more than four years since I left employment at the Estes Park Medical Center as your CEO. My wife and I enjoyed our almost six years in Estes Park. We owned a home and planned to stay there and still miss some of our dear friends in Estes Park. I am now retired living in Ridgway and serve on both the Ridgway Town Council and a community non-profit Chautauqua board.
Given my past professional experience in your community and my admiration for the employees and medical facilities in Estes Park, I have followed with interest the unfortunate situation with three members of the Park Hospital District Board of Directors who are not performing their duties for the public they are elected to serve. It is painful to see how the actions of just a few Board members can impact the morale of the employees and polarize a community.
Former EPMC CEO
My tenure as the CEO ended when Diana Van Der Ploeg and the standing Board Chair came to me and requested my resignation. It was requested with no reasons provided for their decision and no advance warning. In fact, Ms. Van Der Ploeg at this meeting asked me if I had any prior knowledge of their request and when I indicated "no," Diana stated "good, that is what we wanted!" Since I wouldn't want to serve for a Board who didn't want my services, I agreed to resign and requested to give four weeks' notice so I could finish projects and make for an orderly transition for staff and physicians. They said "no" to this request and Ms. Van Der Ploeg stated, I "was to leave by that evening." To this day I still have no understanding why I was asked to leave.
Since I wrote many of the Board approved policies the Board operates under, I have a thorough knowledge of the reasons behind them, specifically the reasoning behind a Board Chair only serving two terms. In addition, according to the Board President Policy, the Board Chair is to "build cohesion among the leadership team" and "plan for Board leadership succession," neither of which it appears Ms. Van Der Ploeg has done. This policy also states the expectation of the Board President is to "set a high standard for Board conduct." Have you done this Ms. Van Der Ploeg? Lastly, one of the qualifications stated for the Board President in this Policy is to be "respected by Board members, the CEO and key stakeholders." Are you respected by the Board members and key stakeholders Ms. Van Der Ploeg?
I agree with the excellent recommendations articulated clearly by Nancy Almond in her letter to the community published last month and cannot understand why Ms. Van Der Ploeg does not have the decency to resign from the Board. It is disappointing to see other Board members support her, and not abide by the wishes of many in your community to lead by example and make the quality of patient care the most important matter at the Medical Center, and not the protection of their tenure on the Board of Directors. Mediation will not help this Board if they are determined to bypass procedures and act outside their legal authority. Like the old saying goes, "a light bulb has to want to change" and this Board does not appear to want to change!
The physicians in Estes Park are the most qualified and competent group of practitioners I worked with in my 40 years in healthcare leadership positions. Your new Medical Center CEO, Mr. Larry Leaming, is a truly competent and personable professional and is an excellent person to lead EPMC into the future.
I am willing to assist in your efforts so please feel free to contact me if you believe I can help the community get the Board of Directors you deserve for your Medical Center. The current Board, and certainly Ms. Van Der Ploeg, should do what is right for the community, not strive to retain the power they abuse. Thank you very much."
-- Robert Austin, former EPMC CEO
Dear EPMC: "I Told You So"
Generally we do not include a byline (name attribution) for articles on EstesTruth because the facts stand on their own, and does it matter who you heard it from if it's true?
In this case, it matters who wrote the article, because he was right, and his name is the story for sounding the alarm over a year ago about the Hospital shenanigans- for which he was publicly flogged by the newspaper and incumbent candidates. Here's his statement:
"I am rarely given the opportunity to say "I told you so", so when that chance arises I will gratefully and humbly take full advantage. Seems the hospital board and/or ex-CEO fomenter Mark Gregson commissioned a study of the Family Medical Clinic. In a nutshell, this consultant's conclusion (also recognized and supported by our new and clearly more astute CEO, Larry Leaming) affirms what I discovered and revealed to the public 15 months ago. The clinic is losing over $4,000,000 annually, and the nursing home is losing over $700,000. I was roundly chastised and deemed irresponsible by many including the editor and reporter of the Trail Gazette for disclosing this truth. I eventually lost an election for my willingness to bring this to public light. I was vilified for daring to question the “selfless volunteerism and public dedication” of the then existing hospital board. My opponent, Diane Van der Ploeg, lead a campaign to discredit me knowing full well my concerns were truthful and factual. I had faith in the electorate’s insight and intelligence; I believed they would be as appalled as was I at my discovery of financial ineptitude and sleight of hand by Van der Ploeg and Gregson. I was naive. The voters simply did not get it and re-elected Van der Ploeg, choosing to simply ignore the blaring truth. Headlines impugned my character, and touted the strong financial position of the EPMC. Now the proverbial chickens are home and roosting. Based on the study and the insights of Mr. Leaming, my original concerns have been confirmed; the public is now aware of the ineptitude or outright arrogance of two disingenuous board members and recall is underway. Yet, despite this latest revelation the same mantra that the EPMC is in "solid financial shape", continues to be touted. However, what should be obvious is that the “rob Peter to pay Paul” financial condition of the EPMC should actually be $5,000,000 BETTER than it is! Someone must subsidize such extraordinary losses generated in a center which should be at worst breaking even. That this situation of loss has been occurring for years should anger and stun the public, especially considering these annual losses have resulted in a five year loss of nearly $25,000,000. I am now made aware that thanks to creative accounting shenanigans, that loss attributed to the clinic might have actually been deceptive. It may be those “losses” blamed on the doctors was due to a surreptitious transfer of actual clinic profit generated by the doctors to other areas of EPMC operations to make the hospital profits look better to the doctors’ detriment. Perhaps this is the true explanation as to Karen Nicholson’s firing…did she know too much? Consider this: if those who utilize EPMC and clinic services along with the whole of the district’s taxpayers did not have to subsidize this $25,000,000 loss, the extraordinary cost of services there could be far lower, as might our taxes. Now that I have been validated and vindicated, perhaps the public will recognize that Van der Ploeg and Levine are board members who knew of this long-fomenting financial disaster, hid it from public view and permitted this extraordinary ineptitude to continue unabated. Ryan White supported Van der Ploeg's contention during the run up to the election, declared at the League of Women Voter’s forum that everything was financially solid at EPMC. As the ex-CFO he knew of the losses, but did not publicly support my disclosure of the loss of millions. Given this egregious malfeasance, it is clear to anyone with a modicum of sense that these remnants of the old board must go. This recall is well-founded for a multitude of reasons, but the most egregious reason turns out to be the multimillion dollar loss these board members not only knew of, but attempted to discount and hide this loss when I disclosed it over a year ago. Now the public has the chance to correct a serious mistake made by re-electing Van der Ploeg. Levine should be removed for malfeasance, and White for knowing about and tacitly supporting it by ignoring my factual disclosure. Now the Trail Gazette editor (who a year ago conspired to destroy my good name, my 43 year medical reputation and thus my candidacy) calls for arbitration, when what is needed is extrication of these incompetent and dishonest board members. And an apology to me from Van der Ploeg and her close friends, Romero and Persons at the Trail Gazette would also be in order…an apology which I hereby humbly accept." --Dr Bert Bergland
An Estes Park Phishing Tale
What would you do?
Email comes in to a hospital department manager that asks for the names, social security numbers and wages for every employee in the facility.
Option #1: Laugh out loud and mark the email SPAM then get back to work
Option #2: Say, "Hmmm" to yourself, then forward the official looking email to the IT department to run a security check before releasing that kind of data
Option #3: Gather the names, social security numbers and wages for hundreds of employees and email it back to the sender.
EPMC, in the business of healthcare and confidentiality and record management and security and all that- in the midst of a curious fund raiser for a $100,000 baby theft alarm system, fell for one well worded email that won the treasure trove of phishing data.
Just in case this is the first you've heard of 'phishing' we've listed some resources on the right side of this page.
"Broken Board, Broken Trust. Estes Deserves Better" is the tagline that the recall committee adopted in their crusade which seems to apply to other situations that the hospital has been involved with including now, the big data giveaway of 2017.
Our advice for this crisis, employees: GET YOUR TAXES DONE! This should be your #1 concern- as many many scammers with fraudulent SSN's are filing for returns on your behalf if they can get - all of the information that your employer just released to them.
To be fair, EPMC is making an effort to help employees handle the hospital's mistake, including credit monitoring etc. That's nice, but there seems to be some liability in there somewhere don't you think? Time, effort and worry are all piling up thanks to this blunder.
February 13, 2017Park Hospital District Recall Committee named
As previously described on EstesTruth.org, the names associated with the recall of 3 Park Hospital District (PHD) board members is cause for conversation all by itself. Comprised of local professionals and former hospital district & foundation board members, the experience and perspective of this group may no longer be dismissed by cub newspaper articles and embarrassed current board members.
The 5 member committee is a good snapshot of the growing group of community members outraged by the antics of 3 PHD board members that govern the Estes Park Medical Center. The signature sheet of the original letter gives a peek at even more well informed perspective, and concern that should not be overlooked by the district voters.
The committee consists of: Kathy Asche, Kristen Berg, Dr John Cooper, Stacey Feree and Phil Moenning.
The committee has established an email address to sign up for a mailing list, or for offers of assistance of time or financial support:
They stated that petitions would be finalized and available for signatures in the next few weeks, and that they were collecting names on a roster of qualified voters awaiting the official document. Contact the committee directly at the email address above for more information or to sign the petition.
EPMC Board president responds
..and shoots herself in the foot
After more than four months of heavy criticism for her actions and lack of actions as President of the Park Hospital District Board, Diana Van Der Ploeg publicly commented on some of the issues surrounding the controversy by way of a "Letter to the Editor" that was forwarded to EstesTruth after being published in the Trail Gazette.... In it, Van Der Ploeg takes a defiant, righteous stand, discounting concerned citizens as "a few very vocal people playing politics and putting their own interests above the good of all else", then goes on to allege bullying and harassment against her critics. (Watch the meeting videos below to see some of the local residents that Van Der Ploeg characterizes as bullies; she should be ashamed.)
Van Der Ploeg throws out a distraction by calling out other board members for not showing up to meetings on time, leaving early, not paying attention and playing with their iPhones during meetings. Perhaps unintentionally, the actions she identifies describe some of the behavior captured on video of fellow recall subject board member Ryan White.
Van Der Ploeg calls for standards that she has violated herself: "provide strategic leadership and operational oversight (not micro-management)". It is her own tendency to micro-manage on site that has created some of the strife internally as the Medical Center staff have stated collectively through other speakers at public meetings, and (with their individual identity known) in local social media.
In a dramatic statement, Van Der Ploeg portrays a false demand that current EPMC CEO Larry Leaming be replaced with a terminated employee. Consistent with her track record of forgetting details or remembering events incorrectly, this statement is completely baseless as demonstrated by the public and recall committee organizers having only stated positive affirmation for the future of Mr Leaming with his stellar track record that offers hope for the future of the facility and staff. If that wasn't enough, a quick read of this site or correspondence from the recall committee- there has never been any hint of concern about Mr Leaming.
Unfortunately for Diana Van Der Ploeg, her poor memory and dramatic statements are without factual support through meeting minutes or executive session records, because those legal documents are MIA under her watch. Also unfortunately for her, there is a growing file of documents and video that prove her incompetent leadership, and the incompetency of other board members to recognize and repair the management of the PHD board. (Scroll down this page to review documents and videos).
Fortunately, in the end, the facts (documents/video) will prevail over passionate finger pointing by Diana Van Der Ploeg, Chuck Levine and Ryan White and their friends writing letters to their editorial supporters at the Trail Gazette.
Diana Van Der Ploegs 'letter to the editor' - Feb 10, 2017
The past several months have seen a flood of controversy engulf the Estes Park Medical Center and its Board of Directors. Much of this seems to be following the departure of a senior administrator who is well-known in the community. As the current president of the board, I feel it is my responsibility to set the record straight on the board’s unanimous support (which was not needed, by the way) for the actions taken by our Interim CEO at the time, and the context in which decisions were made. As with all major decisions, this confidential personnel matter was reviewed and the action taken was supported by EPMC legal counsel. It is understood that the details and deliberations of this case cannot be shared publicly due to privacy laws. At the same time, the Interim CEO prudently engaged the services of an independent consultant to use industry benchmarking with other medical providers to identify inefficiencies within our medical clinic and propose corrective strategies. These strategies will be implemented with successful outcomes. Unfortunately, the Interim CEO’s decision triggered a smear campaign by certain individuals against board members. Of even greater concern, two of the newest board members suddenly and inexplicably sided with these individuals and have subsequently taken opposing views from the decision which they originally supported. Personnel issues are always difficult and rumors abound. There have been accusations of policy and law violations, and of unethical behavior. Interestingly, it was stated at an EPMC board meeting that they “don’t care about the facts, just perceptions.” Others have said that “short of her committing a felony, the separated employee should have been left alone”. I have been threatened, bullied, and accused of many things to divert attention from the facts that formed the basis of the CEO’s management decisions. To clear up those accusations, the Hospital District’s attorney reviewed all documents, policies, emails, and accusations, and found there was no inappropriate behavior, nor violation of laws or policies. Yet the accusations continue, sometimes with a slight twist, to keep things roiled up. We now have a situation where these rumors suggest the ultimate goal of some in the community is to initiate a recall election of me and two other Board members as well as to remove our brand new, highly-qualified CEO and replace him with the separated employee who has no experience in the CEO role. The behaviors involved are deeply troubling. I was first elected to the EPMC board five years ago. During that time, I was part of a team that took our hospital from struggling financially to now being financially sound. That same effort is now underway to improve the financial viability of our medical clinic. The hospital is now stable with a great nursing staff and leadership. The Chief Nursing Officer has brought much needed stability and accountability to the organization, including much more discussion on quality initiatives, plus we now have on board our tremendously well-qualified CEO, Larry Leaming. I would proudly compare my professional accomplishments to those of any of my new detractors. I worked my way up from classroom teacher to college president based on hard work, collegial leadership, team building, integrity, and by having the grit to fulfill the responsibilities with which I am entrusted. Having served on boards throughout my career and taught leadership academies, I know what constitutes an effective board. We need board members who show up to meetings on time, don’t leave early, pay attention and don’t work on their iPhones during meetings. We need them to stay awake throughout meetings, take responsibility for their officer duties, and maintain professional confidentiality. They need to come prepared, turn over missing executive session tapes, and avoid any tendency to seek control of the daily operations of the hospital rather than what we were elected to do: provide strategic leadership and operational oversight (not micro-management). Before the last election we had boards that worked as a team, debated serious issues collegially, and reviewed issues from a strategic level. We discussed quality, patient safety, and business without rancor or disharmony. My hope is to get back to that kind of professionalism, to operate together for the good of the organization, and to put our patients and community first; not waste time on the desire of a few very vocal people playing politics and putting their own interests above the good of all else, including the Medical Center, Medical Center employees, our community, and our patients. The future of our Medical Center is so important to our community and is truly at stake with these antics. My passion for EPMC has not waned. I will continue to support its best interests to the best of my ability. Please join me in supporting our Medical Center and our new CEO and in insisting we get back to discussing important issues, such as whether to stay independent, assure patient access, address challenging reimbursement issues; and focus on quality, patient safety, and making our medical clinic financially sound. You should be so proud of our employees and volunteers who show up every day and commit themselves to our patients in spite of the baseless accusations. We need to let our employees, who do a fantastic job, do their jobs without being distracted by a power struggle and an undermining of the CEO’s responsibilities and delegated authority. Do you really want community members to be able to weigh in on personnel issues they know nothing about and to be so disruptive as to tear down one of the most important gems in our community? One of the naysayers said they hope to “take down the Medical Center.” Is this really in the best interest of the community and our hospital?
EPMC Consultant Findings Flawed
Management Directions, Inc (MDI) was hired to evaluate operations at the Estes Park Medical Center, and Estes Park Medical Group (the Clinic) late in 2016 at the sole discretion of Mark Gregson, former interim CEO of EPMC. MDI reported a summary of their findings to the physician group in January, which was very poorly received by the physicians, and then made a follow up report to the Park Hospital District board at their January 31st meeting.
The financial data MDI used for the report has been called into question and may have biased the entire financial evaluation because the EPMC operating deficit presented to the board was shown as $4.2 million in the financial summary, but only shows as $2.3 million on the EPMG department report acquired through a Colorado Open Records (CORA) Request. The difference of $2 million between the two reports is simply a mystery. The presentation of a larger deficit on the shoulders of the EPMG may have influenced recent operational decisions in management staffing and the current fallout that has ensued.
MDI contract Oct 16.pdf
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MDI extension Nov 16.pdf
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MDI 2nd extension Jan 17.pdf
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Gregson hired MDI with board president Diana Van Der Ploegs knowledge, but without formal board approval. In these documents, Gregson authorized EPMC to pay MDI up to $51,750.00 in fees, which was not a budgeted item for 2016.
Some glaring inconsistencies in EPMC financials are emerging as the CORA documents being provided by EPMC and the state are evaluated by accountants on behalf of the newly formed recall committee. The reporting irregularities have been traced back to 2014, which interestingly include the time period that current board member Ryan White held the position of CFO for EPMC. White has made no statements or identified areas of concern in district board meetings about financial issues before other members of the board or the public.
This information will be updated as it develops, there are dozens of documents from different sources being evaluated to try and pinpoint the root cause of the irregularities, so that the proper questions may be posed to the involved parties, which will likely provide explanations as to why things are going so poorly for the current leadership of the Park Hospital District.
The recall committee that formed after uncovering incompetent management issues at the board level has been overwhelmed with the amount of new data that continues to surface with each layer of discovery and research. Despite the Trail Gazette newspaper's characterization of a group of people angry about Ryan Whites license plate- the allegations and basis for recall are becoming more damning for the future of 3 contested members of the hospital board, Diana Van Der Ploeg, Ryan White and Chuck Levine. All will be subject to a recall election in the coming months.
February 2, 2017
Mike Romero, publisher since 2012 of the once great Trail Gazette newspaper has again spoken, to impart his opinion upon us, the lowly locals of Estes Park who have the privilege to hear his wise perspective on important local events.
Keep in mind, Romero runs a controversial paper that has been skewered for their predictable biased reporting, lives in a million dollar home in Fort Collins, and attended his first Park Hospital District meeting on Monday. His shallow perspective appears in full color as you peruse his latest community guidance article that follows. Our comments appear in red.
Mediation Should Help Get Board Back on Track
by Mike Romero, Trail Gazette publisher, Feb 2, 2017
There has been a lot of criticism leveled at the Park Hospital Board of Directors in recent months regarding how that board is run.
Feelings have definitely been hurt and tempers have flared as a result of various allegations presented by a group of concerned citizens about how the board operates and board decisions. A better description of that group consists of professionals across a dozen fields including past hospital physicians, board members, board presidents, hospital staff, hospital managers, bankers, police officers, service business owners, elected representatives from other districts, nurses, restaurant owners, accommodations owners, current hospital staff, physicians, etc etc etc- overflowing out the door at meetings... It may be a surprise to see that the number of concerned citizens outnumbers all votes cast in the last election- and this 'group of concerned citizens' is ready to recall 3 current board members. But hey, if the publisher prints it in the Trail Gazette, it must be true, right?
After having reviewed documentation on both sides of this conflict and noting some obvious concerns, I chose to attend this week’s meeting of the Park Hospital Board of Directors in an attempt to better understand the underlying issues. He chose to attend one meeting to better understand. His first meeting? Super! He will be now well enough informed to advise the lowly citizens how to handle this series of problems that have been brewing for several years.
First things first, as this came up at the meeting, a termination of a hospital staff employee -- a very well-liked member of our community -- occurred late last year. That is always emotional, not only for the individual, but for family members, associates and friends.
This individual, by all accounts, including mine, is well-respected and liked in the community. I can even go as far as saying I consider this individual a friend and professional associate and I, too, was surprised and shocked when I heard of the termination. But that is a personnel matter between the employer and the employee and not relevant to this discussion. Therefore, I hope it can be put aside. The Trail Gazette's underinformed comprehension of the issues with the Hospital board has been revealed. Karen Nicholson's termination in October (scroll down on this page for more info) was a mis-step by the board that pushed concerned citizens past the tipping point. Karen was one of a handful of key employees that were well respected, capable, efficient EPMC Cheerleaders that were discarded trackside through termination or resignation as the Diana/Chuck/Ryan train gained speed rolling out of control down the tracks. Karens termination angered many, but today it has nothing to do with the effort to recall 3 incompetents. Their overall performance has earned them this ugly distinction that the publisher must have missed during his in-depth examination of the facts, and attending a meeting.
Both sides agree that the care being provided by the hospital is “excellent”. This was further reinforced at the meeting by the new CEO Larry Leaming as he discussed his review of the hospital and its operations during his first two weeks on the job. That is great news. The number one job of such a facility is being handled as it should be.
The citizens’ recall committee has pointed out many governance issues regarding the board and its method of operating. The board, in my opinion, has acted in a sloppy manner by not keeping thorough minutes, using consensus to make decisions when a vote would be more appropriate, misplacing or losing tapes of executive sessions, and generally not getting along with each other in a professional manner. That was a diplomatic generalization, but you glossed over the details that make each of those those points fire-able offenses on their own. This imbalanced presentation of facts to support the Trail Gazette's view seems to be your newspaper standard- and with the routine full color advertising that EPMC places in the paper, we can understand your soft approach to their plight. Assign a reporter and elaborate on the loss of executive session recordings regarding contested decisions, or the absence of meeting minutes to back up Diana Van Der Ploegs demands that other board members can't recall facts as well as she can, or cancelling meetings without notice, or cutting off other board members from attorney access, and on and on and on. We detail most of the charges if you'll scroll down the page and pick up the facts. Read the documents, watch the meeting video (that we the people took and posted for the rest of the public to witness the troubled board first hand, without relying on us, or you).
Even the board agrees that there is remedial work that needs to be done to make it a productive and functioning board.
This week, by agreeing to mediation, board members have taken the first step to address these issues. I hope they can come together, work through their disagreements and get back to governing a top-notch medical center—an institution upon which a great deal of the quality of life that this community enjoys clearly rests. Among the hoped outcomes: A renewed commitment to transparency and an agreement to following board policy and to keep good records. Oh my goodness, if that wasn't a boilerplate government line. Diana Van Der Ploeg has been the board president for 2+ terms, and it's OK in your mind for her to try and get it right now? After she got caught red handed and exposed? That politically correct nonsense is what is being passed around the Rotary table, and down town, and at the mixers- but it's not acceptable for our employees* to ask for another year - while mediation buys them time to Delay and Forget. (* = OUR employees, as the taxpayers of this hospital district).
In addition to its issues with the board of directors, the recall committee has asked for the temporary CEO to step down. That’s now a moot point. His time as temporary CEO has expired and he has already left. The new CEO, Larry Leaming, is on site and working. Leaming seems qualified and up to the task, resolving another issue. This leaves the removal or recall of three sitting members as the remaining issue. Hopefully, Mr Leaming has the fortitude to bring some uncomfortable facts to the board members and save this district much expense and further strife. If they don't listen to Mr Leaming, we'll be in touch with them soon.
Although these members have been asked to step down, I also think it fair and accurate to state that at least two of them have served this community for many years as board members or representatives of several non-profits and should be applauded for doing so. (Thanking our lucky stars Chuck wasn't elected Mayor last year) Serving on any board is often thankless job, yet these board members continue to serve our community with only the community’s best interest in mind. Um- that is one of the big problems, they're NOT acting in this districts best interest. To treat such individuals with the kind of public contempt, disrespect, and lack of civility they were exposed to at this meeting and others should have no place in this community. The contempt about which you write is an emotional fact laden conversation by concerned residents who will no longer tolerate the way things have been going, that the board we elected is ignoring this problem, and some people in town have joined the Trail Gazette as they try and ride the doomed EPMC Leadership Locomotive just a little bit longer while trying to peddle a "kinder gentler solution", aka Dianas friend Diane's talk-it-out sessions to 'heal and unite'. Unfortunately, Diana/Chuck/Ryan have had YEARS to recognize and handle these issues, and it didn't seem to matter to them until this community organized to support a positive change for the entire organization and it started to get uncomfortable. This is how it feels right before something breaks, and then the healing begins. Of course they are reaching out and crying foul- it hurts to be so wrong- but that is the corner they have painted themselves into. It is time to change the leaders.
So after thinking this through, I would like to ask on behalf of the entire community that cooler minds prevail. Let the board and its detractors go through mediation process before taking action to remove any member. Give them the time they need to get back on track. AKA (also known as), follow Diana Van Der Ploegs mantra: DELAY and FORGET.
It is my hope that mediation will resolve the lingering governance issues with the board while at the same time eliminating the need for a recall election that will only further divide this community.
In the end, maybe the money that has been gathered for attorneys for a recall election can be donated to a local nonprofit to help our community rather than divide it as I believe a recall would do. Wow that was a poignant closing. (shaking head in disbelief)
This isn't anger. Our community LOVES the Hospital. So much, that we are willing to fight for what is right, and what hundreds of people know it can be, just not any longer under the watch of these failed leaders. The recall is coming, that is now a fact. What will Diana, Chuck and Ryan do? They will be remembered for their decision now that the process is in motion. Good chance that a decision to resign quietly will fade away in their rear view mirrors, but to fight and be forcibly removed by the ballot will be something that will follow them forever- and it would be truly unfortunate if being recalled in 2017 overshadowed their prior service.
The mediation opportunity passed a while ago, try to keep up, Trail Gazette! There are meeting videos and documents posted right here on this site for your reference if that's helpful. Check HERE for upcoming hospital meetings. It is odd that as a relative newcomer to our community Mr Romero, just 5 years into the job you commute to, critically short of the perspective that comes with giving your life to a community and raising kids here and understanding how things work from the inside- that you would give the kind of emphatic direction to the community with such confidence, based on information you collect, not live. Just because your voice is louder, doesn't make you wiser. The latest opinion piece proves it.
Proof of Incompetence at EPMC
Tuesday January 31st, the Park Hospital District held their regular January meeting of the Board of Directors, with all 5 in attendance (Gerald Mayo by phone). Beginning at 3pm, the room was again to capacity with approximately 50+ in the audience with 4-5 people even standing in the bathroom peering at the meeting through the door. Larry Leaming was formally introduced as the new CEO, and he proceeded to take about 15 minutes to share his view on a lot of things that he has become aware of during his 3 weeks on the job so far. For the most part, Larry told the audience everything that the community already knows: EPMC is a great facility with great resources and great staff- but then he turned around and looked right at the 5 member board that had just hired him and declared that the organization needs "strong leadership from the governing board" with his right eyebrow raised. In closing, his most important observation was that "this organization belongs to the people of this district"... Amen to that, Larry.
Following Larry's words, and the introduction of Dr Aaron Florence as the new Chief of Staff (a rotating position held by physicians with privileges at EPMC), Vice President Chuck Levine snapped into action and asked where the sign up sheet was for public comment, then he audibly worked through the math to determine who had minutes to speak and who would go first, and right then and there Chuck epitomized a fundamental problem with the hospital district board today- they have disconnected themselves from the community. It appears to be more important to them that community members who have taken time to attend these meetings are ruled strictly to not exceed their allotted time, and donations of minutes are kept on Chucks stopwatch- during this meeting he even interrupted past hospital board president Phil Moenning to 'wrap it up'. For a board that is demonstrating their ongoing inability to properly lead and manage routine meetings and operations of a public tax district- you might think the last thing on their mind would be unreasonably restricting selected public comments.
Below: Notice to board of recall intent
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For instance, at Tuesdays meeting, Chuck permitted the first speaker, an EPMC manager who 'represented a few other employees' to continue on past his time slot as he called out protesters and recall activists for making some staffers feel harassed. A few minutes later, Chuck Levine interrupted Mr Moenning to close his comments that were getting critical of the board- which Mr Moenning succinctly did with a face-to-face demand that the three contested board members "resign and go away". Before he finished however, Moenning expressed salient points that the Board seems oblivious to, which are at the core of their failing leadership including the general observation that the board is in chaos. Some board members swear they did something, but can't back it up with minutes of the meeting, or any documentation of actions taken. This circumstance has repeated itself multiple times in just the last 3 meetings and is a correctable action if it was a single mistake- but it seems to be the way the board is run under Diana Van Der Ploegs leadership as Board President.
Kathy Asche also spoke, and obviously relying on her extensive local board experience she did a better job welcoming the crowd to the district meeting than the hospital board had done, identifying board members in attendance, since they had not been introduced and do not have nameplates. Asche went on to identify some of the symptoms of the root problem, including pointing out the audience members standing in the bathroom and the general inadequate arrangement that the hospital board chooses to conduct their public business in. She contrasted this meeting to others like the school district, town board who arrange their meetings so that the audience can see the board, can hear their comments, and are able to properly participate in meetings. Then, she launched into what appeared to be her real objective.
Beginning with a well deserved scolding of the board for not including on their agenda a formal notice of the intent to move forward with a recall election, Asche read the letter (link above) delivered to the Board at least 2 weeks ago from the recall groups attorney. There is an almost surreal sense that the board is handling this remarkable community effort to remove three board members through a recall election- by ignoring it. Kathy Asche finished her statement by looking at Diana Van Der Ploeg, Ryan White and Chuck Levine and said "You need to resign".
Feels like the hospital district is being held hostage by these three people, who are exercising their legal ability to sit there and smugly look down their noses at community members who have a lifetime invested in the community, and decades of faithful service to the very organization the board is strangling. A community group so full of broad experience, wisdom and concern, and described during Phil Moennings comments as "a group of very powerful people", it just makes you shake your head that Van Der Ploeg, Levine and White would be so disconnected that they would permit the district to face this financial and emotional trainwreck in order to save face, and their contested seats on this board.
To date, the board president hasn't even acknowledged that there is a concern much less a well funded effort to eject her from the captains seat as well as her supporters Levine and White. This is consistent with the way Van Der Ploeg has handled conflict and differences in the past. As evidenced by the video recording of the December meeting, when there was a disagreement about facts, Van Der Ploeg would pause, then say to move on to the next item- as the other board members and audience shook their heads in disbelief. It is sadly believable that Vice President Chuck Levine is supporting the president and standing his ground in private conversations outside of the board meetings, insisting that everything is going according to the rules and that they have done nothing wrong.
So, it looks like it will come down to a recall election to replace 3 incompetent leaders who actively refuse to acknowledge, discuss or admit to the shortcomings they are on record as having performed or failed to perform.
If past meetings were not enough evidence of their incompetence, the board carried on with business as usual and had ample opportunity to improve their performance, which they failed. Following a presentation by Dr Florence representing the physician groups position on the Right to Die issue, the board was tasked with deciding to "opt in" or "opt out" of the provision of services which would allow a patient to exercise their right under state law to choose their time of death. After a few minutes of conversation, a motion was made and a vote taken to support the Dr's decision and "opt out" of providing the service (more on this issue later). Then, instead of just a normal parting comment, a full blown discussion about the issue ensued, for about 15-20 minutes with additional input from Dr Florence and individual board members and even a suggestion that the position be split between the nursing home facility and hospital- but the vote was already complete! AMAZING: on an issue that was voted into state law by 60% of the voters in Colorado- the Park Hospital Board didn't even ask for public input from the people they represent. As a matter of procedure of this board alone, there is no provision for public comment on ANY action item on the agenda, and public comment is stopped short when it does occur through an outburst. Can you think of any other board that not only doesn't ask for public input, but condemns it?
Well, it gets better, or worse. Diane Muno was on the agenda to discuss 'Mediation'. This is evidence of our earlier assertion that the board was selective of who was allowed to address them and for how long- Diane's comments were more suited for the public comment section of the meeting versus an unlimited time slot on the agenda Diane Van Der Ploeg approved. For some reason, Muno went down her personal list of accomplishments including owning 6 businesses, serving on multiple non profit boards, her position on the EPMC Foundation board, and finally her position on the (alleged) Wellness Center at the Stanley. She complained that many people- including DONORS- had approached her about the problems within the hospital district board and she was compelled to do something about it, so she was here to suggest mediation. She then dropped Melissa Westovers name, who runs the restorative justice program for the police department, and by the way, does mediation. Diane then introduced Jon Nicholas, head of the EDC, a quasi public/government department of local business stimulation who said that "yes", he had been involved in mediation "once", and it worked. Well, with such glowing recommendations for mediation, why wouldn't the Hospital District Board bring in a mediator? Steve Murphree, always the nice guy with a good head on his shoulders made the motion to pursue mediation and they all voted in favor of it. That was a mistake, but what else would you do when offered kumbayah by such important local people?
PROBLEM: The actual problem isn't between board members- it is the FAILURE OF THE 3 BOARD MEMBERS TO LEAD THE DISTRICT. Mediation won't fix this, unless you're mediating between the board and the voters. Of course Diana/Chuck/Ryan are in favor of mediation- it buys them time and after enough time people forget how shitty they have been running the district, including the major loss of quality employees, and the inter facility employee rifts that are developing and on and on and on.
Delay and forget, Diana Van Der Ploeg's mantra.
Mediation fits that objective nicely.
After most of the crowd had filtered out, since the meeting ran past 6pm, Ryan White brought up the little issue of not having seen the executed lease agreement with the Stanley Hotel and wondered if anyone knew anything about it? In what seemed like a middle school student council session, everyone shook their heads and finally the administrative assistant said she thought she had seen it come in, but she didn't commit. The conversation that followed was another example of this boards incompetence- the lease was the keystone of a shell game in which the Stanley Hotel prostituted the Hospital to sell the community on a wellness center project in order to get control of Lot 4 that was formerly owned by the Town, located in front of the Stanley Hotel. That whole process is an embarrassment to the community for falling for it, and should an embarrassment for the hospital board, but here they are, wondering aloud whatever happened with that lease? Ryan White correctly stated that they should probably figure out where that was at, and get something going because if they didn't, he thought the Stanley might "reconfigure the land". Ya' think, Ryan?
We told you so. The hospitals wellness center project was a sacrificial lamb for Stanley Hotel development, and this hospital district board is led by 3 incompetent buffoons.
We look forward to the recall and hope that perhaps after some intelligent guidance by new CEO Larry Leaming, the Board will see the error of their ways and save the community the strife and expense of their inevitable removal by resigning.
We'll post the video of this circus as soon as we get it uploaded for public viewing.
Hospital Recall Effort Begins
A formal announcement and status update regarding the pending recall election is expected at the regular meeting of the Park Hospital district, set for Tuesday January 31st at 3pm in the Timberline conference room at the Estes Park Medical Center. According to sources on both sides of the issue, either the citizens group or the EPMC Board will reveal the details of the recall effort to the audience during this meeting.
EstesTruth will post public documents and additional details on this website as soon as they are made public.
Lazy B Wranglers get lazy, and lose it all
So, way back in January of '16, the Lazy B filed an application to build the mother of all chuckwagon venues (18,000 sq ft) off of Mills Drive, on a plot of land owned by the Elk Meadow RV Park. A lot of local folks said the location was not a good choice and, the application had some issues fitting in with the neighborhood zoning. In a nutshell, the Town Board said YES (7/16), the planning commission said NO (11/16), then the variance board said NO, then the Town Board said NO (12/16). Ultimately there were some technical details that tripped the whole project up, in addition to some vociferous locals and ultimately a lawsuit filed by Jay and Maureen Vetter, who live on Mills Drive.
That lawsuit named as defendants the Town of Estes Park, each of the trustees in their official capacity, the Lazy B corporation, the Lazy B applicants personally: Michelle Oliver, Michael Andrzejek, and Randy Jackson; and the owner of the property, Elk Meadow RV Essential Group LLC**. A big group of defendants, and this could be quite an expensive case to continue to argue. Mistakes have been made by the Town and the applicants throughout this process, and the chickens were coming home to roost.
Larimer County district court judge Devin R Odell;
BELOW: Notice issued in lawsuit
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In early January, following this significant derailment of the project, Larimer County Judge Devin Odell issued a default judgement against one of the defendants, Lazy B Wranglers- who amazingly didn't appear before the court. Now we know where the 'lazy' comes from in "Lazy B Wranglers"- remember when the Lazy B attorney was really late to a meeting with the neighbors at the Rock Inn? And the Lazy B team didn't show up for the town meeting to discuss their project that was turned down at said meeting? And now, a default ruling because they didn't appear? The Lazy B venture is creating a reputation to precede themselves before their next season, rumored to be planned for the Elkhorn Lodge in 2017.
In our opinion, the Elkhorn Lodge is the perfect location for this western experience, and, the property is for sale! Our advice, since it appears that you are struggling with decisions dear Lazy B, is to kick ass with the program in 2017 at the Elkhorn Lodge. Spiff up the property and make it a focal point of this little town, and all the bumbling will be forgotten. Except that this may go down as the most expensive attempt to get approval for a project that failed before it began, in the Towns history.
** If you're not confused enough, now try to follow this: Elk Meadow RV Essentials Group LLC owns the property that we all know as Elk Meadow RV Park, located at the intersection of Mills Dr and Spur 66. The sole member of Elk Meadow RV Essentials Group LLC is Rocky Mountain RV Essential Group LLC, and the CEO of Rocky Mountain RV Essential Group LLC is.... Michael Andrzejek. You may recognize that name from the list of defendants, as an original applicant alongside Michelle Oliver and Randy Jackson (cue Twilight Zone theme)
UPDATE 1/26/17: Lazy B Wranglers manager Michelle Oliver wrote a piece for her friends at the Trail Gazette, and closed with this statement: "Due to local resistance, the building project has been denied and the Lazy B Ranch and Wranglers is closed in Estes Park". Not sure if that means gone forever, gone from Mills Drive, or if it was just a dramatic statement. As per usual, the Trail Gazette doesn't provide necessary details to complete the story. According to the Lazy B Wranglers website today, they are selling tickets for the 2017 season on their website, with directions to the show at the Elkhorn Lodge, 600 West Elkhorn Ave.
January 18, 2017
Stubborn hospital board digs in to the detriment of our community
As a longtime resident of Estes Park, I am writing to express my concern and lack of trust in the leadership of the current Estes Park Medical Center Board of Directors.
I understand some of the complexities and challenges faced by elected boards. It is not an easy job, and board members make huge personal sacrifices to serve their community, for which I am personally grateful. Often the general public misunderstands the role of a governing board, and holds board members responsible for unpopular organizational decisions they may not have even had a role in. However, all elected boards should be held to high standards of transparency, professionalism and accountability to the electors and the organizations they serve.
I have taken the time over the last several months to attend EPMC Board meetings, ask questions and talk to Board members and staff, in an effort to understand recent issues and how they affect me, my family, and our community. While there are Board actions we cannot be privy to, as dictated by law, there are other issues the public can and should care about as electors, health care consumers, and responsible citizens. By their own admission, this Board has made decisions that violated their own policies, ignored best practices and procedures, and violated at minimum, the spirit of the law. Documented Board involvement in recent personnel issues is a clear violation of policy, and has resulted in significant mistrust on the part of staff. Board members have publicly stated that they may not have understood their authority, and their roles and responsibilities.
Board minutes are missing, and do not reflect important discussions and decisions apparently made by members of the Board. The responsibility falls to the President of the Board to make sure all policies, procedures and laws are followed, and that board members are informed, trained and held accountable.
In my opinion, the EPMC Board is irreconcilably divided, and Board President, Diana Van der Ploeg has been ineffective in building consensus and restoring public trust. Unlike a recent Letter to the Editor by an out-of-town friend of Ms. Van der Ploeg's, I do not know Ms. Van der Ploeg personally, but I have seen the impact of her leadership decisions on trusted health care providers and staff morale, and I am extremely concerned about the ultimate impact on patient care.
A leader builds consensus and trust, and empowers others with the resources to do their jobs. Under Ms. Van der Ploeg's leadership there has been a history of turmoil, a growing culture of distrust, inconsistencies in documentation, and perceived intimidation of board members and staff. When two-thirds of the Board of Directors commits signatures to a petition of "no confidence" in the Board they themselves serve on, there is a problem. Clearly, rebuilding and reconciliation is needed for this Board to regain public trust and be effective.
While hospital district funds have been committed to paying expensive consultant fees to "improve clinic operations and efficiencies," nothing has been done to acknowledge Board dysfunction, and demonstrate a similar commitment toward restoring transparent and professional Board operations.
The first obvious step would be for the Board President to acknowledge her role, whether intentional or not, in creating divisions and distrust among Board members, and step down from her position. Recognizing when situations have become irreconcilable, and taking steps to diffuse further controversy is a positive leadership trait.
The simple bottom line for me is that the EPMC Board, under the leadership of Ms. Van der Ploeg, has violated the trust of this community, and the incredibly talented and valued staff of the very organization they were elected to support and protect. Please join me in urging Ms. Van der Ploeg to begin the healing process for our critically important medical community by stepping down from her Board position.
Save us from the divisiveness and expense of a recall vote, for which there is mounting support every day. I have no doubt the outcome will be the same, but at far greater expense to our community. I am sure there have been many times where Ms. Van der Ploeg, and other Board members, have acted with good intentions.
My hope is that this will be the case now.
Hospital: We've done nothing wrong. We say so.
In a media release she distributed today, Kerrie Hill, as spokesperson for the Estes Park Medical Center, summarized that the Park Hospital districts review of assertions by community members about improprieties within the leadership and board were wrong, and that EPMC's self investigation reveals that they are innocent and doing a great job.
Here's the problem, Kerrie, for an 'investigation' to hold any water, the facts must be gathered by an independent reviewer, or even better, your boss. In this case, 'your boss' consists of the electors that decide who is in charge of the hospital district board. After the last couple of meetings and this media release, it is embarrassingly obvious that the existing board leadership, and some misguided hospital managers are in need of replacement and retraining, respectively.
Kerrie Hill, spokesperson for the Estes Park Medical Center. Her most recent media release is below.
2017-1-10 empc release.pdf
Size : 763.618 Kb
Type : pdf
The recall flag has been raised in previous public meetings, and the gears are in motion to organize a recall of the president, vice president and board member Ryan White- who have now shown themselves to be incompetent while in charge of the hospital district. That incompetence is painfully apparent after watching any one of the meeting videos when it comes down to 'he said, she said', followed by the complete absence of minutes, recordings or other required documentation of meeting proceedings and board actions. The presidents reaction? Watch the video from December 30th, unbelievable.
Unfortunately, this board is the root cause of multiple employee losses through termination or resignation, and despite those separations there has been a sliver of hope that if there was a board leadership change and resultant hospital manager attitude adjustment, those valuable employees might be attracted back into their roles. With the stubborn denial of incompetence by Van Der Ploeg, Levine and White- the time frame has widened and those staff losses may not be recovered as those people move on to keep up with family demands for an income.
The recall is coming. The refusal of these 3 board leaders to humbly acknowledge that they have made mistakes is infuriating the community. Today's media release in the midst of the defiant high and mighty stance of these board members will end up the same as a resignation- the difference is that a recall will cost taxpayer money, time, emotions and sadly the opportunity to retain employees that were the top hospital cheerleaders until this all fell apart in October. You 3 should be ashamed of yourselves. Sure, listen to Dick Lyons (hospital attorney) coach you with his cool even tones, then take a step back and look at this whole thing: you screwed up, worse than you can fix it. Admit responsibility and step aside as the community reclaims responsible leaders for the future. Ask new board members Steve Murphree or Gerald Mayo what the people want, and take a page from their playbook about how to listen to the community and represent the people that elected you. Despite the spanking Diana Van Der Ploeg administered to Mayo and Murphree at the last meeting- they have it right.
Hospital Board answers community concerns with their middle finger
EPMC Board President Diana Van Der Ploeg called for a special meeting held on December 30th (details below).
It was a farce put on for the "benefit" of the public. The meeting started with a review of the financials for November. I thought it was weird that the board would call a special meeting to review the financials. I think they were trying to show the "mob" (as we were referred to in an email) that they were doing a great job running the hospital.
Then they "answered" the allegations brought up at the last board meeting. There was a lot of "he said this". Then that guy would say I wasn't even there! There was very little agreement or explanation. They had no minutes to back up anything they said. People didn't remember or remembered everything differently.
Led by board president Diana Van Der Ploeg with her attorney attached at the hip, the EPMC Board dodged all of the serious questions on the table, then reviewed mundane financials and policies at their special meeting on Dec 30th.
(The board didn't actually flip off the audience. That's a generic image to represent the way the audience felt when the board conducted their meeting. Just in case anyone on the board needed that clarification)
Gerald and Steve were told it was their own fault that they did not understand that the presidency of the board was being given to Diane against board policy. No one told them that it was against the policy and an exception was being made since no one else had the experience to do the job. The CEO's contract was extended by "consensus" not by a motion, second and vote. Since no one objected they just did it. According to the lawyer for the board who was present, no motions, etc are needed for board action unless there is someone who opposes something the board wants to do and speaks up in opposition to it. Then it requires a vote. They often could not agree on what past actions were taken and just "went on" to the next item that had been brought up. The whole meeting made me sad. It was sad to see adults elected to positions of responsibility acting like children fighting in the sandbox. Ms. Van Der Ploeg took the opportunity to take to task Gerald and Steve for having discussions with the public about public board actions. Then they went into executive session and we, the public mob, was dismissed. It was sad. It resolved nothing. Everyone should attend a board meeting at least once to see what a circus it is. These people are bringing shame on themselves in the way the meetings are conducted.
And if you have never attended you must learn that the public is not allowed to speak or comment on anything that is going on except at a special time at the beginning of regularly scheduled, not called special, meetings. At this meeting, they reluctantly granted 15 minutes at the beginning of the meeting for public comment. But Ms. Van Der Ploeg really did not want that to happen.
It's as if they are throwing gasoline on the recall fire.
EPMC Board: "Attend, if it's not too much trouble?"
EPMC current president Diana Van Der Ploeg has called for a special meeting of her own on December 30th at 830 am in the Timberline meeting room at EPMC. In her announcement dated 12/23 she indicated topics may include:
-- Management Directions report
-- Recent state constitutional amendment on assisted suicides
-- Financial update
-- Alleged Park Hospital District Board Policy violations including the extension of the current temporary CEO's contract
-- Destruction of District electronic files pertaining to executive sessions
You'll recall that Board Secretary Gerald Mayo called for a special meeting December 12th, that was cancelled a few hours before the meeting (no one sure who cancelled it) due a to "lack of quorum". Sounds like the board president and vice president were too busy to attend and address significant community concerns. Surely they will explain the reasons for that cancellation- cause it sure looks like they were ducking their responsibility and treating the newly elected representative board members with disrespect - just like they have since the election.
Best case scenario, Van Der Ploeg, Levine and White submit their resignations at 8:31am on December 30th, effective immediately. Worst case, the recall effort is officially kicked off to enforce the will of the electors, whatever that may be. We have a feeling it will be another accurate prediction that we make, Total Recall.
See you Friday at 830.
Merry Christmas, Estes Park
In 1951 Buel Porter moved to Estes Park from Kansas City with his family. Buel was a WWII veteran, theatrical artist and retired Coca Cola sign painter. For Christmas one year he built a Santa and sleigh display for his family home, then designed and built displays for the community in the coming years: Santa and Sleigh (1957), Nativity (1958), Old Lady in a Shoe (1965), Jesus (1966). He also built Christmas in Bugville, 3 Wise Men and Camels, Santa's Card Shop, Shepherds and sheep during the same time period. Despite being put up and taken down every year, the displays have physically survived, but to the dismay of many, the number of displays has quietly decreased over the last decade. Due entirely to Town's decision to put some distance between church and state, and eliminate their risk of pushy religious rights crusaders creating waves if they continued to maintain these classic displays the Town is now free of any religious connections. The Nativity scene is now owned and maintained by a group of Estes Park churches and this year is displayed at the Catholic Church on Highway 34. Jesus, originally installed in 1966, was in very rough condition, and after being given to the property owners on which the display had been erected for decades was replaced in 2010. The property owners worked with Eagle Rock students, who designed and fabricated a completely new Jesus statue, which is displayed by the Mayo family for several months every year. Since there isn't a camel or shepherd fan group in Estes Park, the 3 Wise Men and Shepherd display (that was located behind Ed's Cantina on the hill across the river) has just disappeared in the last couple of years, mostly to the dismay of local high school students. Each year it was just a matter of time before a couple of grapefruits in pantyhose appearing dangling between the legs of at least one of the camels (EP alumni- do you have a picture of this we can share?? Send it to us here).
This year, a talented fan of these displays offered his expertise to actually repair and repaint a couple of them in time for the 2016 yule, and they look beautiful! We hope the Town will stick with maintaining what's left of Buel Porters contribution to Estes Park history.
Alas, goodbye to Christian Christmas traditions across the country, including here in Estes Park with the elimination of the religious display connection and welcome to the era of Political Correctness. Ugh.
Like the religious displays, the Town abandoned the 34' cross atop Prospect Mountain many years ago, citing the "danger of maintaining the structure" (aka: religious displays scare us). That cross has subsequently been 'maintained' by a couple of families who have climbed, repaired, and lit the cross in random fashion over the last 10 years. Their efforts include hauling a generator and fuel each day to illuminate several methods of lighting. Unfortunately the cross was not 'on' this Christmas season, but we hear that at Easter it will be illuminated with a new long term lighting solution....
So, there's hope for the small town tradition of old fashioned displays that celebrate the roots of the Christmas season (Jesus' birth) because of individual efforts toward their preservation.
Thanks for keeping the Buel Porter tradition alive ..and Merry Christmas to the People of Estes Park
Dollar General coming to Estes
According to Devan Pharis of Vaquero Ventures based in Fort Worth Texas, the company plans to lease property and construct a 9,100 square foot Dollar General Store at the intersection of Stanley Ave and So St Vrain (Hwy 7). The plans reveal 30 parking spaces around the store that will be accessed off of Stanley Avenue, with no vehicular access from Hwy 7 directly.
"X" marks the spot where the Dollar General store will be built at Hwy 7 and Stanley Ave.
UPDATE Jan 24, 2017: The developer has run into some issues and has formally asked the Town of Estes Park for variances about: Entering the parking lot from Stanley Avenue instead of Hwy 7; allowing the driveway to be 49.5' wide versus 30'; locating the loading area half of the minimum requirement of 110' from the center line of the roadway, "because it's a narrow lot". The town staff has asked to delay the discussion on this by the trustees until Feb 21st 2017.
Taco Bell will close 2 days after Christmas
According to employees at the KFC/Taco Bell, the restaurant franchisee is set to close their operation permanently on December 27th. The restaurant originally opened in 1987 when Stanley Village was constructed. The shopping center was built by and is currently owned and operated by Wheeler Management Group of Greeley Colorado. Perhaps the hideous paint scheme that Stanley Village redecorated with last fall had something to do with the closure- although we suspect it had more to do with escalating rent.
Estes Park Taco Bell/KFC franchise #3188 is set to close December 27th.
Hospital meeting videos made public by citizen
Video recording of recent hospital district meetings posted by concerned citizen that personally contracted with local videographer Nick Molle to preserve the meetings accurately.
Our opinion: Smart move by this citizen considering the Park Hospital District, according to their own admissions at one of these meetings, is having trouble recording their own meeting minutes accurately, and in the case of Executive Session recordings, has misplaced or has not recorded those sessions as prescribed by law.
Hospital woes worse than originally thought
If you read one sentence EPMC leaders, this is it: Send the CEO on his way today, accept the resignation of the President & Vice President, then acknowledge White vacated his position when he left Estes Park months ago. This will save the taxpayers money, time and hopefully allow for new management to salvage the damage that has been done. Seriously, uphold your oath and do what is best for the community, today.
It doesn't get better folks, the more we hear, the worse the situation is over there at the EPMC. At the community meeting held Monday night at the public library, details emerged that show signs and symptoms of a multi year leadership failure which has created an atmosphere of reprisal fear among staff, and has resulted in multiple recent resignations of long term and key employees.
The meeting was attended by about 45, including a similar blend of physicians, clinical staff, local business owners, pastors, elected district representatives (hospital and other), hospital alumni and community residents that attended the regular Park Hospital District (PHD) board meeting last Tuesday. Current PHD board members Gerald Mayo and Steve Murphree attended the meeting and for the most part, listened to the litany of specific concerns raised by people with first hand information to share. In addition to the concerns raised at the December PHD meeting (see article below), new issues included:
-- Board president Diana Van Der Ploeg is 'investigating' concerns about herself (as described by EPMC spokesperson Kerrie Hill in the above media release)
-- Repeated use of a PHD executive sessions to have conversations not contained in the executive session motions (that's a big, fat no-no)
-- Cancelling a special meeting scheduled for 12/12 without the Secretary's involvement with the cancellation notice (who cancelled this meeting?)
-- Assertion that in early 2016, PHD board president Diana Van Der Ploeg acted under the guise of the entire PHD board to make a Quid Pro Quo offer with the Estes Park Town Board regarding negotiations with Lot 4 development at the Stanley Hotel / John Cullen - with $325,000 at stake
-- PHD Board members routinely show up on campus, micromanaging hospital operations beyond supervising their sole employee, CEO Mark Gregson
-- Contentious division of PHD board:
OLD GUARD = Elusive veteran members VanDer Ploeg, Levine [don't return calls, always in the shower]
NEW REPRESENTATIVES = Attentive concerned members Murphree, Mayo [active listeners, participate in meetings]
MIA MYSTERY MEMBER = Ryan White has vacated the position by definition, and his seat should be filled by appointment at the next PHD Board Meeting. Read Board policy Sect 5. c., and Colorado Revised Statue 32-1-103 (5)(a)(I & II). Since his position has been vacant for over 60 days, the responsibility now falls upon our Larimer County Commissioners to fill the position according to the PHD's own Bylaws Sect 7.
We could go on. The issues are streaming to the surface in an environment that employees are tendering resignations to be able to speak freely, and revealing that the leadership has been a problem for a while, and the Board knew about it.
The discussion included details about a recall petition, which is in the formative stages to establish the proper language and be certified by the County before collecting just 300 hospital district voters to cause a recall election. The cost of that election, estimated to be $10 - 12,000 would be the responsibility of the Park Hospital District, and would likely be conducted in May of 2017. Legal fees for the district would also begin to accumulate- despite the PHD telling their attorneys several months ago to minimize their involvement in district affairs. Since they are managing our tax money, we'd implore the Board Treasurer to keep a close eye on attorney expenses moving forward, as the district will not be paying for personal advice that the departing board members may be interested in.
A new signup is being circulated for supporters to pledge funds to assist with expected costs that would start around $10,000, although according to one member of the audience who had participated in a recall in another community, costs exceeded $65,000 start to finish. Contact information for the organizing group will be furnished in the next couple of days when more information is made available about the upcoming sequence of events.
The meeting was facilitated by Kathy Asche, who identified herself as a Hospital customer, tax payer, business owner and through teary eyes, a huge fan of the staff at EPMC who were working so hard to maintain excellent care DESPITE the obstacles the Board and senior leadership had dropped in front of them. Asche went on to implore the audience to reach out and say 'thanks' to EPMC staff when it was due for excellent care, because so much of the talk around Estes was deservedly critical of the hospital leadership this week, but that criticism didn't include the personal touch of the caregivers and much of the staff. Several other audience members who were apparently hospital staff reinforced that sentiment, and wanted to assure the community that patient care was paramount, despite these discussions.
Interestingly, Trail Gazette reporter David Persons sat front and center with his notepad, and after introducing himself, promised to report fairly and represent the community's sentiments in his coming story. He offered his personal email address in response to several heated (accurate) assertions that the Trail Gazette only picked letters they liked to print, were overseen by a large corporation that has shown partiality to it's better advertisers, and that the mysterious editorial board was biased which affected reporting on other important community issues. Well, despite all of those things being true, Persons handled it professionally, acknowledging the 'fair concerns' that were raised. [The Trail Gazette is, in our fact laden opinion, the poster child for a biased small town paper, which we'll detail as soon as the final article is submitted...] Time will tell if David Persons writes what we all experienced, and not just print the 'facts' from the Hospital media release, like they do with Town of Estes Park info.... but we digress. (In other news, Town Administrator Frank Lancaster is getting some much needed sleep after the Loop scam passed the trustee vote, and he appreciates the heat being taken off the Town by this BS parade at the Hospital).
Finally, Steve Murphree took the opportunity before the meeting ended to offer some hope to the community in the new CEO who will arrive mid-January, whom he described as the 'Real Deal', 'the most fair-handed man I've seen', and even called him a 'peach'. The timing of the new permanent CEO couldn't be better, as 3 positions open up on the District Board, transient CEO Gregson has departed, and a new attitude of quality leadership and opportunity are created while the man Steve further described as one who "runs into the fire- not away from it" seems so appropriate.
We agree with the audience member who quipped:
"Welcome to the Blaze"
EPMC cancels special meeting -
Community plans alternate meeting in its place tonight
This morning, EPMC quietly posted a cancellation of the special board meeting on their website that was announced on Friday, and scheduled for today at 5pm at EPMC. On the notice, the reason for the cancellation was "Lack of Quorum".
In light of the hospital board meeting being cancelled, concerned citizens have organized their own get together and have invited the public, including Gerald Mayo and Steve Murphree (both elected hospital board members) to the Hondius Room at the public library, the new meeting will also start at 5pm.
Organizers were quick to point out that there is no expectation that Murphree or Mayo will speak at all, and they are not attending to officially represent the hospital board, but will be in attendance to listen to community concerns beyond what was allowed at the December Park Hospital District board meeting last week. Space issues, limited time offered and scheduling the regular board meeting in the middle of the day prevented many citizens from participating.
It is legal and ethical for board members to attend public events at their leisure, and converse freely with citizens that elected them at any time and any place. Rules about gatherings for elected board members are strict, and prevent 3 or more members from meeting together about board business. This permits 2 board members to discuss board issues, but no more than 2. So, if any other member of the hospital board show up at the meeting they should be turned away by the organizers so as not to jeopardize the opportunity to discuss hospital issues, with only 2 board members present. That shouldn't be a problem though since the boards own meeting had to be cancelled because not enough members were in town. They probably have more important things to do than discuss replacing the top leadership of the hospital administration and board. We expect the hospital district to provide proof of the board members reason for absence from tonights special meeting at their next regular meeting. If they don't bring it up, we will.
EPMC Begins Damage Control
The Park Hospital District has scheduled a special meeting on Monday December 12th at 5pm to discuss some of the concerns that have been raised. Board Treasurer Steve Murphree is on the agenda to call the meeting to order, and Gerald Mayo will provide information about these issues (no other board members appear on the agenda):
1. Alleged PHD Board Policy violations
2. State Statute violations
3. Validy of the extension of the current temporary CEO contract
4. Destruction of District electronic files
The meeting is scheduled for the Timberline Conference Room, which as we know is pretty small for an important issue. There's still time to find an appropriate venue to accommodate the voters (including a sound system) let's hope the hospital board can at least recognize and address this challenge. Maybe in the Taj Majal next to the fireplace? Like a bona fide community get together. Put the presenter behind a podium left of the fireplace, then we'll also have stair and balcony seating. It's outside the box, but it will work better than the Timberline room. There were hospital staffers fruitlessly trying to solve the board's poor planning at the last meeting where many were left outside in the hall unable to hear first hand what the discussion was.
We hope to hear that the Board will be making some membership changes and avoiding an uncomfortable, albeit swift recall process.
See you Monday night at 5.
Estes Park Medical Center's Tower of Power begins crumbling
Tuesday, December 5th at the regular December meeting of the Park Hospital District Board, a large crowd consisting of citizens, doctors, police officers, pastors, accountants, nurses, paramedics, neighbors, clerks, voters, a remarkable number of past EPMC employees and doctors, and average Joe Citizens gathered to express a high level of dissatisfaction with the current direction of the Hospital District leadership. The Timberline Conference Room was set up to seat the almighty board in 1/2 of the room, with the other half of the room allocated to nearly 80 members of the public, 18 in seats and the rest standing shoulder to shoulder- with more spilling into the hallway unable to hear the proceedings. Many in the crowd were obviously on their lunch break or after work, as about half of the crowd arrived bearing EPMC credentials, scrubs or a stethoscope around their neck. It was a remarkable sight if you recognized the old guard of Doctors, Nurses and hospital staff that ran EPMC before the mothership was built and our little community hospital turned into the business machine that it is today. Those friendly faces represent decades of caring for patients, when patient care was still cool in the hospital. Everyone knows that many of the experienced local clinical staff have migrated out of the hospital and down to the clinic, currently known as the Family Medical Group. That shift is often blamed on the way the hospital machine is run, with transient management and pool staffing (which is on the rise according to CEO Mark Gregson's financial reports today)... Well, to complete that tangential drift- the old local staff still cares about their struggling community hospital, unfortunately, many on the district board may not see it the same way.
Board President Diana Van Der Ploeg called the meeting to order and almost immediately handed the reins over to Kathy Tallerico, seated next to Diana, whom she oddly said would be handling the public comment portion of the meeting. It wasn't until the first public speaker, Kathy Asche, found her place standing at the front of the room that the audience was properly introduced to Kathy Tallerico (by Kathy Asche), as an attorney with Lyons Gaddis, the hospital districts legal counsel... Details, details..
Board President Diana Van Der Ploeg
Vice President Chuck Levine
Member at Large Ryan White
Come to find out there are lots of little details that the hospital district is overlooking, and Kathy Asche didn't hold back when she called out some areas of strong concern. Asche introduced herself after the attorney invited her up to speak, for 2 minutes. Asche said she had more than 2 minutes of material to cover, since she was there representing others that were too concerned about their well being to speak publicly. Quickly hands shot up as other members of the audience offered their 2 minute time slot to Asche to present her statement. Despite 18 minutes of speaking time credit, Asche made it through her prepared statement in 16 1/2 minutes, which included some details that may explain why the leadership at EPMC has faltered for several years: CEO making motions/actions that are reserved for Board Members; Van Der Ploeg being elected to a third term in the Presidents role (in spite of their own policies limiting service to 2 terms) after nomination by fellow board veteran Chuck Levine- Levine made up the entire officer nomination committee for the current term Van Der Ploeg is serving, which caused some concern as well. In a November email response to community questions, Van Der Ploeg replied 'for the Board' which is apparently a no-no (one member representing the entire board) according to rule #3 in the board policies. Asche didn't stop with her criticism of CEO Gregson and President Van Der Ploeg, calling out absent Member-at-Large Ryan White for being disconnected with the Estes Park community as he maintains his residence in another mountain town, doesn't own property in Larimer County and she questioned if he was even eligible to be a member? With requirements for board members to be eligible electors, although White complied with the rules at the time of the election, he doesn't comply now, and Asche suggested that the Board should be protecting the interests of the community, not the community members keeping tabs on the board. Since the board seems ill advised as to their responsibilities and procedures, Asche properly educated them about filling an open position by appointment if White was not eligible. She went on to suggest that for the time he was ineligible, any votes that he participated in may not be valid and cause some real headaches for the District sorting out past business.
Throughout it all, Chuck Levine, the board vice president, escaped directly being named in too many of the assertions that called out misbehavior by the Board. Instead, he fell under the broad demand for any board member that supported Gregson or Van Der Ploeg's management decisions to submit their resignation immediately. Asche presented a stack of petitions with 458 signatures that she said was 'not a formal recall effort, YET'. The petitions demand terminating Mark Gregsons employment, demanded Van Der Ploegs resignation, and any other board member that supported their actions. Asche is a numbers lady, so she was quick to point out that the 458 signatures that had been collected on the petitions were more than Van Der Ploegs recent election votes (323), White's 231, and even more than Chuck Levines 415 votes. Board member Steve Murphree and Gerald Mayo's names both appeared on the submitted petitions. Asche said that just 300 votes were required to start a recall election, and demanded that the Board seriously consider stepping down to save the district a lot of money, as they were already in conversation with Larimer County and the State of Colorado about a recall, and the Colorado Department of Local Affairs about the misuse of Executive Sessions for hospital district business.
Felt like the kids had been caught with their hand in the cookie jar, and it was remarkable that Van Der Ploeg sat there with that grin on her face and said nothing about the litany of specific concerns. Good legal move, terrible public relations move, Diana.
Finally, Asche presented some good news with her recognition of newly elected board members Steve Murphree and Gerald Mayo, which wrapped up her comments and ended with applause that didn't stop until the attorney held up her hand to kept things moving along.
Next up, community member Barb Pratt spoke to the passion of the audience supporting Karen Nicholson, whos termination sparked this shitstorm, and may have been the straw that breaks the rut of poor leadership (we hope). Pratt recalled conversations in the 70's that led to the construction of a community hospital, and remarked how things have gone off the tracks in recent years. Her words could have come out of the mouth of any of dozens of folks packed into standing room only space. She was probably easy for the misled leaders to dismiss her comments, however, because she spoke from the heart about what a community hospital means to a community- and didn't drop the numbers or facts that Asche did. Dismissing her intangible sentiment would be a mistake they shouldn't make! The hospital is owned by the community and the board works for the community. It seems many of them have forgotten that important detail.
The last speaker was a 9 year EPMC employee, Gerardo Garcia-Ortiz, known around the facility as "G". Garcia is the Director of Patient Access, he oversees ER, outpatient and clinic registration as well as clinic medical records, he has an unfettered view of leadership, employees and patient issues. He is involved with employee wellness, and has a remarkable can-do positive attitude. Well, he did. Garcia announced during his remarks that he was also speaking up to represent some of his peers: "Many staff members do not feel like they can voice their opinions, afraid to lose their jobs. I however am not afraid since I have already submitted by resignation notice." This was an obvious surprise to the crowd, who let out a collective gasp at his statement. Garcia went on to call out the current leadership for demanding better financial productivity, and dismissing the focus on quality. In his final remarks, Garcia stated that "This poor decision has de-stabilized a portion of the workforce causing a domino effect of “Quality” staff members leaving this organization. It has fractured the cohesiveness nature of the clinic without an explanation of the direction we are taking going forward with an honest and open manner. The passion of our medical clinic has been broken and the way I see it, the involved board members and CEO have not stuck with the Mission and Vision Statements of this organization."
Powerful remarks from an insider that had to submit his resignation to feel comfortable enough to speak the truth.
Van Der Ploeg swiftly closed public comment and called out the next item on the agenda. She was interrupted by Board Treasurer Steve Murphree who said he had a comment. Van Der Ploeg abruptly turned to her attorney as if searching for moral support, and Steve went on. He spoke quietly and gently to express that the Board appreciated people sharing their comments, and that they would not go unheard. He plead for calm as the board sorts out the details of the series of bombshells Van Der Ploeg just smirked her way through, and encouraged the clinical staff to go back to their jobs and continuing delivering high quality care, "like you always do". Most encouraging, he said "There's a better day coming". His comments were appropriately rewarded with a long period of applause, and although Van Der Ploeg probably didn't notice, new board member Murphree handled the tense situation perfectly, Presidentially, and in this case acknowledged that the board was listening since the veteran board members didn't take that step.
Recognition of Paul Fonken for his service as Chief of Staff followed the public comments with a presentation by the board. A well deserved recognition for a Doctor who has contributed so much to Estes Park and around the world. The meeting then carried on with business as usual, a brief Executive Session at the end, and no other decisions made during the end of the meeting- which is public as they adjourned. [No formal board action can be undertaken in Executive Session, only specific, confidential discussion. Actions, votes and even general discussions must occur in front of the people]
Read several previous articles (scroll down) about the events that led up to this meeting. We'll follow this story and keep you posted.
UPDATE: Kathy Asche's remarks in full (in box):
Introduction – Kathy Asche, Spokesman District resident, taxpayer, business owner, concerned citizen,consumer of health services.
(For: Mr. White – Please let the record reflect that the room is full, overflow in the hallway. More would have liked to attend. However, there isn’t adequate room for the public and PHD business is conducted during most citizens’ normal work day schedules.)
The purpose of this group is to make it clear that the Estes Valley community has lost its faith in the leadership of the Park Hospital District. The Board of Directors is elected to serve the best interests of PHD, its taxpayers, and the community. Some members of the board and the interim CEO have violated the community’s trust. In order to rebuild community faith, you are called upon to immediately to do the following:
1. Terminate Interim CEO, Mr. Mark Gregson.
2. Require and accept Ms. Diana Van der Ploeg’s resignation from the Board of Directors.
3. Require and accept the resignations of any and all other members of the Board that support Mr. Gregson’s and Ms. Van der Ploeg’s positions in leadership.
As you can see, a large group of taxpayers and citizens are very unhappy with the state of the Park Hospital District. The Park Hospital District is accountable to the taxpayers of the District. The PHD Board of Directors works for the taxpayers. We lack confidence in the Interim CEO, Mark Gregson, and current board President Diana Van der Ploeg .
Mr. Gregson has exercised poor judgement regarding personnel decisions. With just weeks to go until the new, permanent CEO arrives Mr. Gregson should be focused on ensuring a smooth transition. Instead he has ignited a public relations firestorm in the community. He has undermined staff morale. He has created a difficult environment for the incoming permanent CEO. It doesn’t matter if the public doesn’t have all the facts. It only matters that Gregson does not understand the Estes Park area community and our perception of events.
Mr. Gregson’s position as Interim CEO was contracted with the board. However, we have not been able to locate evidence of his contract approval in the minutes of the public meetings. Perhaps we have overlooked it? We understand that his contract for services has been extended and yet we find there is no evidence for that in public meeting minutes either. Whether he is an independent contractor or an employee, any approval of his initial contract and any subsequent extensions should be recorded in the minutes. No formal action may be taken while in executive session according to C.R.S. 24-6- 402(4). (Further referenced as C.R.S.) Approval of a contract, and any related extensions, are action items so it would be a violation of C.R.S. to have taken any of these actions in executive session.
Mr. Gregson engaged a management company to evaluate the Estes Park Medical Group. Usually a contract of this scope and size would need to be approved by the board, especially in light of Mr. Gregson’s short term status with the organization. Again there is no evidence the board took appropriate action on this issue in a public meeting. There is no record indicating Mr. Gregson followed best practices for the contract with this management company. Documentation regarding issuing Requests for Proposals (RFP) and competitive bidding for this contract are absent.
In summary, Mr. Gregson needs to be relieved of his position due to our community’s lack of confidence in his judgement and before he causes more damage to our District and our community. We are concerned about an obvious lack of transparency in the Park Hospital District board. Arguably, the district is following the letter of the law with regard to transparency, but it is certainly not following the spirit of the law. The community’s lack of confidence also stems from concern that Board members do understand their roles and the law that governs their actions.
Meeting Minutes are not very clear and they record irregularities in procedure. One example is the Minutes from the 5/31/16 meeting:
1. Mark Gregson moved to adjourn from Open Session at 3:43 p.m. The CEO is not an elected Board Member and should not be making motions.
2. There was no motion to move into Executive Session. Yet there is note of an Executive Session having occurred. Absent the appropriate procedures to go into Executive Session, any discussions that occurred in such a session would be a violation of C.R.S.
3. There is no record of the Executive Session adjourning, and/or returning to Open Session. Yet there is recorded action in the form of approvals of reappointments and resignations. Action items must occur in Open Session.
4. There is a final motion to adjourn at 4:27 p.m. Why is there a need for an adjournment from a 2 nd Open Session when there is no record of it having been reconvened? Or, why is there an adjournment from an Executive Session when there is no documentation that is was properly convened in the first place?
It appears there are a lot of matters being handled in Executive Session. We question the legality of this practice given the Board’s lack of knowledge about the procedures that govern Executive Session. Our community lacks faith that the board is limiting itself to appropriate topics. All matters that are being handled in Executive Session could be in violation of C.R.S. given the inconsistent application of the required procedures for entering & exiting Executive Session, and the appearance of having taken action in such a session.
Please note, according to the Minutes, Ms. Van der Ploeg and Mr. Levine were absent from this meeting on 5/31/16 and left it to the newly elected board members. But don’t blame the newly elected members that face a significant learning curve. What a disservice to the new board members! And how irresponsible to have left the District in this position. It would have been simple and appropriate to reschedule the meeting to a different date so that the 2 continuing board members could be present.
The president is no more important than any other Board member. Board of Directors Policy #3 states the Board President can represent the Board on issues designated by the Board but can’t make decisions for the Board absent the entire Board. Ms. Van der Ploeg should not send responses – such as her 11/14/16 (need to confirm this date) email noting the response as from the entire “EPMC Board of Directors” - to correspondence from the public indicating she is responding for the whole board when, in fact, she does not have support from all of the board members for the position she takes. In addition, members of the board are violating their own Board policies. As an example, Board of Directors Policy #3 clearly states that the Board President shall serve no more than 2 successive one year terms, without a break as president for at least one year. Ms. Van der Ploeg was President when the policy was approved at the 1/26/16 board meeting as recorded in the Minutes of that meeting. Diana Van der Ploeg was nominated for a 3 rd term as president and accepted the nomination in violation of Board policy. It appears then that she does not think Board of Directors polices apply to her.
At the May 31, 2016 meeting, the nominating committee submitted a slate of officers. According to the April 2016 meeting Minutes, Mr. Chuck Levine was appointed as the sole member of the nominating committee. The definition of a committee is “a group of people appointed for a specific function, typically consisting of members of a larger group.” Mr. Levine is a single individual. As a continuing board member, Mr. Levine is responsible for knowing the policy that limits the number of consecutive terms a member may serve as President. Yet he nominated Ms. Van der Ploeg any way. It is irresponsible that this has occurred because it appears to be an intentional violation of written Board policy.
Another community concern is the number of CEOs and turnover in this position in the past 4 years. This indicates to the public that the Board lacks the understanding of what qualifications are required by a professional CEO. We also believe it was inappropriate for Ms. Van der Ploeg to serve as a board member and a short-term Interim CEO at the same time.
The District seems to suffer from clerical errors in some of its published legal documents as well. Please note the District Transparency Notice that is on the EPMC website indicates election results are found at the Secretary of State website. Special District election results have not been posted there for several years, since about the end of 2012. They are published with the Colorado Department of Local Affairs. Another example of a clerical error is an incorrect address for Ryan White on the official canvassing results of the election.
In summary, Ms. Van der Ploeg needs to resign from the Board due to our community’s lack of confidence in her judgement and because of her lack of understanding of her role on the Board, and violation of Board policies.
If Mr. Levine supports Mr. Gregson and Ms. Van der Ploeg in their actions, then Mr. Levine should also resign from the Board. This community will not have confidence in him either.
Should Ryan White still be on the board of directors? Why does he even want to be on the board any more? He met the requirements to be a Director at the time of his self-nomination, and the election. A Director is required to be an “eligible elector” – that is a REGISTERED VOTER of Colorado and either:
--A resident of the District for
not less than 30 days, or:
--The owner of taxable real or personal property situated in the district. A search of the Larimer County Records shows Mr. White does not own property in the county. (Property that is owned by a legal entity such as a corporation, LLC, partnership, or Trust does not qualify a person as an eligible elector on the basis of property ownership.) I point this out because Mr. White’s L.L.C. does not own the property where he lives.
A Director’s office shall be deemed vacant upon the occurrence of any of 8 specific reasons. (Sec. 32-1- 905(1), C.R.S.) Reasons that could be applied to Mr. White are:
#1 – Failure to meet the qualifications of Director: because he is no longer a resident; and/or
#4 – Failure to remain qualified for the office: because he is consistently absent from the community.
Mr. White appears to simply be using Estes Park as his residence for mailing purposes and for a physical location for his business. His address of record doesn’t really rise to the level of a residence that is where he lives and spends most of his time any more. His new profession requires he be absent for long periods of time. He is out of touch with the District and our community. If Mr. White resides in Colorado, then why - at least until recently - does his vehicle have an Illinois license plate? His vehicle should be appropriately licensed in Colorado if he is indeed claiming he is a Colorado resident. This vacancy can be filled by appointment by the remaining Directors.
(Sec. 32-1- 905(2)(a), C.R.S.) Actions taken by the Board after Mr. White was no longer an eligible elector may no longer be valid if he was a party to a(ny) 3 to 2 vote. We believe he should remove himself because he no longer seems to meet the requirements to be a Director; and because he certainly can not have the best interests of our community at heart when he isn’t present to see the frustration and anger in the community first hand. He certainly must resign if he supports the actions of Mr. Gregson and Ms. Van der Ploeg.
In summary, we want to publicly recognize Gerald Mayo and Steve Murphree for their faithful efforts to safeguard the best interests of PHD and our community. We applaud their efforts to take a stance against the poor leadership of the other individuals on this Board of Directors and Mr. Gregson.
The community’s lack of faith in this District’s leadership is visually demonstrated here today by the number of citizens attending this meeting. And also by the 458 signatures of citizens on these petitions. We have more citizen signatures on these petitions than any of the Board members received in the recent elections:
Diana Van der Ploeg = 323
Ryan White = only 231
Chuck Levine = 415
The Board needs to understand that we are serious about the immediate termination of Mr. Gregson, the immediate resignation of Ms. Van der Ploeg, and the resignations of any and all other Board members that support the actions of Gregson and Van der Ploeg! Members of this group have already contacted the Larimer County Clerk and Recorder to obtain information about implementing a recall election. We have contacted the Colorado Secretary of State to obtain more information about violations of C.R.S. We have contacted the Colorado Department of Local Affairs to get more information about legal procedures and the community’s avenues for recourse against the District and individual Board members.
We will use every resource necessary, including a Recall Election, to remove you. Please note we only need 300 signatures from registered voters to effect a Recall. We already have 458 citizen signatures on our informal petitions with little effort and in a short time. Please save the community the time and effort of a Recall Election; because we want to save PHD the costs of a funding a Recall Election.
Coming Soon (to an old drive in theater near you):
The Estes Park Resort has been sitting quietly on property they own that used to be the home of the Lake Estes Drive In Theater... North of the Resorts front door. According to the Resort owners, their neighbors much prefer low level condos to a hotel building, which would be partially owner occupied, and partially vacation homes. It would help solve the Resorts room shortage during larger events, and provide some much needed local housing, according to the statement made in their wetland variance request heading for the Towns careful review. Problem is, the 'Town' has been pretty unpredictable with important decisions lately. Good Luck to the EP Resort with the town.
The Estes Park Resort, built as the Lakeshore Lodge sits along the edge of Lake Estes. (It's the building with the garish lights along the edge of their entire roofline). The proposed condos would be constructed along the North side of the resort, which is the other side from this view.
EPMC under the microscope for recent firing
In a flurry of activity to bring some awareness to EPMC's recent termination of former hospital VP Karen Nicholson (right), a group of community members plan to bring their formal concerns to the Hospital Board at it's Tuesday Dec 6th meeting. In a petition the group is circulating, they call for the termination of current CEO Mark Gregson among other changes as a direct result of the firing in October. Citing Karen's community and work commitment along with an effective leadership ability, names calling for action on the petition are becoming somewhat of a whos who in Estes Park.
"I am a 28-year resident of Estes Park, a patient of EPMC, and a voter. I have worked with hospital staff on a number of community initiatives over the years, and my husband and I are supporters of the Medical Center Foundation. Our children were born at EPMC, and we have always received excellent, timely, and personal care at the clinic and hospital. As you know, I was extremely dismayed to hear of the termination of Karen Nicholson last week, as I believe this action will be detrimental to patient care, physician retention and quality of service. After thorough conversations with people impacted on all sides of this issue - including staff, physicians, patients, and each of you, it is my firm belief that the termination was unwarranted, inappropriate, and harmful to our community.
I strongly believe that Karen was intentionally set up to appear oppositional and non-compliant by Mr. Mark Gregson, with the knowledge off the Board President. Conversations with hospital and clinic staff have revealed absolute consistency in their support of Karen as an effective team leader and diligent administrator, committed to the highest level of patient care. Reflections of staff are not just people’s opinions, but are backed up by statistics and outcomes, such as: receipt of the Press Ganey Guardians of Excellence Award, exceptionally high patient retention, positive patient satisfaction survey results, 95% retention of clinic staff, and a remarkable 100% physician retention rate in the last 3.5 years. These outcomes are simply not achieved under poor or insufficient team leadership. Allegations that physician reimbursement rates are exceedingly high, are unfounded as they are being over-exaggerated, misrepresented and unfairly compared to clinic and hospital settings unlike our own. The favorable EPMC financial report I listened to at your October 25 Board Meeting, is a direct result of a successful front door and feeder program provided by the Medical Clinic.
If there has been inconsistencies in the conversations I have had, those rest entirely with members of the Board of Directors. While each of you have been faithful to your obligation to protect personnel rights by not discussing the termination issue, clearly there are many inconsistencies in your perceptions, your roles in the situation, and your sharing of other information. While I respect the difficult job you have, part of your responsibility to the community is to protect the assets of the medical community. Karen is a longtime, valuable asset who I believe was not given the opportunity to be heard. Physicians asked you to protect her in a hostile, non-supportive work environment, and you did not. Had you taken the time to read Karen's thorough response to written accusations made of her by Mr. Gregson, with the knowledge and backing of the Board President - it would have been clear to you that there is more to the story. I find it ironic that many of you commented to me how difficult this is when “you only know one side of the story.” I have diligently and thoughtfully reached out to individuals impacted on all sides of the story - something it appears in fact that you did not do. As a community, we elected you to oversee and protect all assets of our hospital, including and most importantly, our human assets. In my opinion you have failed the community, and I personally have lost my trust in your ability to lead.
As a voter and community member to whom you report, I urge you to take the following steps:
Terminate Mr. Gregson immediately
Receive immediate resignation from, at minimum, Board President Diana Van der Ploeg
Re-instate Karen Nicholson as VP for Physician Services
While I respect the enormity of the job you have been called to do, and the good intentions each of you have brought to it, nothing short of the above actions will remedy the situation and move our community toward healing.
Thank you very much for your service, and for reading my letter."
The Hospital Board meeting will be held Tuesday December 6th at 3pm in the Timberline Conference room.
UPDATE 12/5: Sounds like Karen Nicholson's termination may just be the tip of the iceberg over at EPMC. The petition being circulated contains language different than what Nancy Almond asked for in her letter to the Board (above), but retains the demand that both CEO Gregson and board president VanDerPloeg be removed. At the time of this update, two sitting board members had signed the petition, as well as several members of the current medical staff. You could say there's an overdue movement to tidy up the leadership mess at EPMC- ironically it was the CEO's removal of the leader with the most respect that has brought upon themselves this attention. See you Tuesday at 3 at EPMC.
Lazy B Wranglers
Despite several setbacks, the Lazy B folks are still trying to squeeze their project through the cogs of government in the face of fierce neighborhood and community opposition. Today at 1:30 the Planning Commission will hear about the latest revision from the Lazy B team. You may recall the last time the Lazy B presented their case (without even showing up) that requested a variance to the conditional approval for the project- and it was denied. We won't rehash the entire process (scroll down for ample details), but we will say that the Lazy B people and The Town have their work cut out for themselves, as the neighbors have enlisted the remarkable knowledge of Dave Shirk, former Town of Estes Park planner (that left under dubious circumstances). Dave has a much better grasp of local zoning than anyone in the department it seems. The Town Planning Department (mostly new folks) seem to be encouraging the Lazy B project along, while the law may say otherwise!
The Planning Commission hasn't bent to the developer yet, and the Town Board is leery.
Today's Planning Commission meeting should be interesting. Watch it in person at 1:30pm at Town Hall, or tune online HERE.
UPDATE 2:30pm: The Planning Commission denied the revised application: 3 against, 2 in favor. This was in contrast to the Town Staff recommendation to approve the application.
EPMC cutting another tie with the community
Interesting to run across this group of familiar faces this morning on the way to work. They're displaying their dismay about the recent termination of Estes Park Medical Group VP of Physician Services Karen Nicholson. According to the group of protesters, Nicholson was terminated to make way for the new leadership 'team' under the direction of Mark Gregson, new CEO (and we must mention that he is the most recent CEO in a series to come through the EPMC revolving door).
The group is preaching to the choir when they talk about Karen Nicholson's relationship with the community, her commitment to every person she comes into contact with. Perhaps the EPMC management wasn't aware that out of their sight, Karen was a company woman on and off the clock. She has always been a strong advocate for local healthcare and she will confidently defend or promote the hospital to anyone that's interested. Her departure from the medical center would be a major loss to an organization that has struggled with their connection to this community for years, which is proven by the number of long time Estes Park health professionals that used to work at EPMC, and now work in the valley- or by the sheer number of valley residents that EPMC provides housing for, in a desperate attempt to staff a facility at an exorbitant cost that is not sustainable in the long run.
Firing this professional local lady, a respected and loved member of our community may be the straw that breaks the camels back. The group of folks at the side of the road is the strongest show of dismay we have seen about an EPMC decision in decades.
Hopefully there was merely a miscommunication and Karen won't be leaving the hospital, and all of the trust that she has single-handedly rebuilt on their behalf won't be lost. Letting her go may cost more than the hospital can afford.
Update: The get together officially ended about the time the local Police showed up, about 9:10 this morning.
It wouldn't take much to get their act together, over there at the EPMC... so why do they keep shooting themselves in the foot?
Lazy B project on the Rocks
Today, at the Board of Adjustment meeting where the Board considered the Lazy B Wrangler variance request to allow a reduction in the loading dock setback associated with the construction of their new 18,000 square foot entertainment venue...... The request was denied. This denial effectively killed the entire Lazy B project, because the conditional approval passed by the Town Board last month stipulated that this variance be awarded.... which it was not.
It's notable that Dave Shirk, who advocated for the denial of this application used to be "Town Staff" until his 'voluntary' retirement from the town about the time that Alison Chilcot was promoted to community development director... (she has since been returned to planner). Losing Dave was a mistake for the Town, for he was one of the good guys and worked his butt off on behalf of the Town... Today Dave spoke eloquently, intelligently, and called out some gross shortcomings of the current Town Staff in their presentation. He is currently working as an independent consultant, and obviously has a valuable perspective on Town of Estes Park issues, in addition to his broad planning experience. We hope that his business picks up now that he's had a few minutes to show his prowess at speaking up for what's right.
"How it got this far, I don't know" Dave said, before he was interrupted by current planning director Hunt who pointed out that this has already been determined to be compliant by the Town Board. Somehow, we have more confidence in Dave than the entire Town Board, and certainly more than the Town Staff.
It's also interesting to note that the applicant didn't even show up to this meeting.
Update 9/18: Following the meeting, of course there was a flurry of activity. This letter from Ascent planning sums up nicely the facts in this case, as it stands today:
"...the failure to either comply with or appeal Town Board conditions of approval renders the application null and void, and any land use approvals will require a new land use application. EVDC Section 3.2.E.2 provides 30 days to comply with conditions of Board approval. A condition of approval of the July 26 2016 Town Board action was approval of a variance from the Board of Adjustment. The applicant did not contest this condition of approval and a hearing for the required variance was scheduled for September 13. At that time the BOA disapproved the variance. We believe the application is null and void due to inability to comply with accepted conditions of Town Board approval. Should the Department determine otherwise, we believe revisions to accommodate the loading area exceed the authority of staff to modify the approved plan. We base this belief on the fact that a variance was a specific condition of approval imposed by the Town Board, and therefore exceeds staff’s authority to waive or modify this requirement. Finally, we assert the there is no development plan approved for the proposed use. Public record indicates the Planning Commission failed to take action on the development plan within the allowed timeframe and in accordance with Section 3.1.D the development plan was rendered denied. The applicant did not exercise their right of appeal to the Town Board within the specified timeframe. This assertion is based on the requirement that development plans for special review uses must be “reviewed and approved” by both the Planning Commission and Board."
Post Office still struggling under new leadership
It's interesting, the inbox at EstesTruth.org. Most often we receive comments about The Loop. We also read tips about a variety of issues that may or may not affect the community, and we sift through them to avoid spreading gossip, as we disseminate facts with our own opinion sprinkled on top.
We wrote about the Post Office in April after a change in leadership led to some questionable decisions about the staffing and contractors, and as you read this, the conflicts continue to surface - like the recent experience of yelling in the Post Office 'from the boss' heard in the customer line while it occurred behind the stacks of packages screening the work area from the lobby... among other suggestions that mail is routinely lost, delivered late, misdelivered, signed for and never delivered, picked up late, picked up and not scanned, scanned and not delivered, prime post office parking spaces being blocked by mail vehicles 24 hours a day, weekly substitute/replacement drivers and shared routes, mail being delivered and picked up after 4pm - you get the idea- there are issues at the Estes Park post office that are worse than they ever have been... Usually those complaints are one here, one there... but today we received a photo from one of our readers of a situation that may explain some of the lost mail we have experienced in the last few weeks. Is the mail secure? Not if the open van picture shows how your United States Post Office handles your mail- jammed into the family van, parked in the busiest parking lot in town with the doors and windows open (below)- unattended for nearly 15 minutes. This instance isn't the big problem- but it's another symptom in a series of issues that have surfaced since the new post mistress Kim Chase took things over. Have you called the post office (970-586-0170) lately? There's a new voice every week, and the answer is always the same "not our fault".
Anonymous tips are hazardous, but when the information is accurate, no matter where it originates, we know that anonymous tips have been responsible for cracking some of the biggest rings of wrong in America.
Sometimes even the best people want to do the right thing but are protective of their families and livelihood so they won't sign their name- we understand! EstesTruth.org started out with a dozen + names attached to the 'Contact Us' page until many of us were targeted specifically and individually by people that disagreed strongly with our opinions. So we get the position you are in.
If you know anyone that works at the post office, ASK THEM and verify what we have presented- you'll hear that what we write about are facts. Too bad (for us) that the postal service is so damn big and these kind of service issues could go ignored for so long. One of the letters we received said "Maybe it's time for the new Postmaster to move on".
Agreed. Please get this place back in shape.
9/9/16 UPDATE: David Rupert from the corporate communications office at USPS wrote in: " You can contact me about any postal issues at (303) 313-5134. Regarding the Estes Park Post Office, statistically it is one of the best performing offices in the state. The anecdotal assertions about widespread scanning and delivery issues are not supported by statistical evidence. The parking issues are common to every business in the town and we are not immune. We are a transportation and delivery company, so our vehicle needs are unique. We have worked with city officials to find good alternatives that are customer friendly and provide reasonable access for our employees."
Unfortunately, David did not offer any explanation for the open van with our mail in it during a busy traffic day. 'Anecdotal Assertions' is a fancy new term to dismiss our concerns, unfortunately the story they were given by the innocent postmistress doesn't reflect the daily life in Estes Park.
Catastrophe waiting to happen
This is Estes Park after hours:
Every night between 10pm and 1045, Elkhorn Avenue looks like this: from 2-20 workers on bicycles ride home after a long day, and from we can tell, this is the checklist:
- Black shirt
- no reflectors
- no lights
- no helmet
- no rules or respect for vehicles
If you have been on this street, you know it's true- and the police enforcement? Nothing. This night could have been the exception, but this event occurs over, and over, and over night after night.
Two nights ago, we're traveling Westbound on Elkhorn at Riverside behind a police car (the charger) and a black shirted bicyclist sped between the police cruiser and the curb in the opposite direction, then crossed over Elkhorn avenue to ride with traffic in the center of the curbside lane. So fast that it could have simply been missed. On our way back out of downtown a few minutes later, different police cruiser running traffic on inbound highway 7 traffic from from one of their favorite spots...
Similar circumstances (invisible bicyclist on the roadway) cost a cyclist his life several years ago on Hwy 34, and the driver of the vehicle is still paying for hitting him- everyone suffered. This is an actual prevention opportunity.
Might be time to adjust priorities.
Safeway is expanding
In October 2015 Safeway introduced the idea of expanding their current 41,094 sf store into the adjacent lot that is currently a parking area to the East, between the Safeway and RM Pharmacy (or what used to be the pharmacy). They will lose 12 parking spaces, but maintain the required number of parking spaces per the code. The addition will add 6,280 square feet of space to the store, and construction is expected to begin in the winter of 2016 or spring of 2017.
11/16: UPDATE: Word on the street is that this project has stalled and Safeway will not be expanding, yet.
Election day for hospital board
Today, May 3rd is
another chance for the mere mortal citizen to get involved in the
community. This is a day that you will pick the people that decide if
the hospital board should stick with 'Status Quo', and decide issues
like these among so many others:
- Pursue "Medical Tourism" and build the wellness center for visitors on The Stanley Hotel compound?
- What to do with the 3 houses (that cost $1.5 million tax money) next to the hospital that were nearly turned into parking lots last year, and are currently being used as work apartments & commercial storage in a residential neighborhood?
- (It's inevitable) Who will be the next CEO? (Following Mark Gregson, Brian Herwig, Robb Austin, Tim Bishop, Andy Wills, Bobbi Swenson, Diana Van Der Ploeg, Karna Shofer, Douglas Faus, Tim Bishop, etc... )
- Will the Hospital District continue to give, give, give tax money to community groups?
- Community Recreation Center? What happened?
We suggest that it's time to shift the efforts of this community hospital toward:
Board candidate Ryan White hit it on the head when he was answering a question at the League of Women voters last month: "Our primary mission is taking care of sick individuals", right after he said that we should keep a cutting edge wellness center project in context. Well
said Ryan! Patient care first, then tackle 'cutting edge'
'entrepreneurial' adventures (aka the Stanley Wellness Center) if we
can accomplish good patient care.
Cast your vote at Town Hall TODAY
from 7am - 7pm
170 MacGregor Ave
Vote for 3 board members (from a field of 4) for the 4 year terms
#1 Ryan White
Advocating for Patient Care above all else
#2 Gerald Mayo
Seasoned community member and business owner familiar with the customer side of EPMC
#3 Dr Bergland
Huge amount of local & professional experience and a willingness to speak up if things look out of order.
#4 Diana Van Der Ploeg
Current board member, has been involved with EPMC decisions for the last several years. A vote for comfortable Status Quo.
Steve Murphree is running uncontested for the 2 year position
Update 5/4 7am: In the absence of any official results, after talking with our voting friends, here are our predictions:
1- Voter turnout is low. This is a special district election and there aren't any controversial issues at the surface making the news every day. Apathy rules.
2- Those who do vote are our older population, and are generally comfortable with the Status Quo, so, the results go something like this order:
Diana Van Der Ploeg (she's nice, is personally committed and she's an easy comfortable choice)
Gerald Mayo (More people like him than don't like him, he's lived here and is involved in the community)
Ryan White (He's the less evil of the remaining 2 choices, because...)
Bert Bergland (raised too many eyebrows too early when he sounded the alarm about potential inconsistencies with Hospital District money; people are afraid of this, so he gets last place.
..we are very curious to see just what the final numbers were, and with the addition of Ryan White, Steve Murphree and Gerald Mayo, we're hoping for some better connections with the community and responsible leadership.Fun Fact: Did you know that the hospital is exempt from following Estes Park ordinances and zoning regulations? Yup. One entity may not be ruled by another. They can do what they want, when they want and the Town just sits and watches. THAT's why these positions are so important.... and FWIW, we were bummed out that there wasn't an 'I Voted' sticker after hitting the polls- those little guys are good publicity for the voting process, and a reminder to busy folks that just forgot to vote, but are able and willing with a gentle reminder.
problems at the post office
April 22, 2016
Sybil Barnes (appeared in the newspaper)
"When my family first moved to Estes Park in 1940, your only option for mail delivery was a visit to the post office, where you had a box with a combination lock or you picked up general delivery at the counter.
Over the years, home delivery via rural routes to individual mailboxes was added as the population grew. For years, one family delivered the mail to an area which included Glen Haven, Drake, and the Tahosa Valley as well as the YMCA area, RMNP, and Carriage Hills.
A big leap into the 21st century came when "in-town" delivery was added to cluster box units within walking distance of homes and businesses in neighborhoods. Businesses on Elkhorn Avenue including the Library and the Municipal offices still get their mail by visiting the post office.
Letters and packages for the rural routes and cluster boxes are delivered by independent contractors. Individuals bid on a route and pay all expenses such as car maintenance and gas for that route. Contractors are vetted through the Memphis USPS office in a background check which includes fingerprinting, motor vehicle driving records and drug testing. Route contracts are renewed every four years.
These contractors are independent business people - not postal service employees. They are responsible for managing time and maintaining the integrity and security of the mail to a high level.
Karin Swanlund has been the contractor in my neighborhood, which includes businesses and housing near the hospital and in the reclamation area as well as businesses and housing near the Stanley Hotel, for the last 16 years. In addition to her daily duties of sorting and delivering the mail, she coordinated the continued delivery of mail via Trail Ridge Road when Estes Park was isolated by the 2013 flood.
She arranged teams of postal contractors and USPS employees for bowling tournaments and other money making events for area charities. She organized those same people to participate in the postal drill team which was a part of the Catch the Glow parade. She worked happily and successfully under three postmasters and 3 postal supervisors. She often skipped spring break or other vacation trips with her family to substitute for other route carriers who needed surgery or a vacation or other emergency time off.
As recently as last November, she received a "recommendation of renewal of contract."
And then in late February, she was singled out as a bad apple who was breaking postal rules. She received a letter saying her contract would not be renewed at the end of March. The explanation given was alleged misconduct which included things that happen to any human being in a fast-paced environment. Other contractors and USPS employees have made the same mistakes. The postmaster began writing up formal reprimands instead of offering to "help" or "retrain" to improve performance. Karin missed a package scan - but the customer had the package delivered to their door. The customer didn't realize that every package that enters and leaves the post office is now scanned so management can get a bonus based on their delivery rates. She left the post office to begin her route before all the mail was sorted - but came back later and delivered the items before the end of the day. The mail comes to Estes from Longmont on a truck which is often delayed by weather or sorting problems at the main Denver office.
To my knowledge, Karin has always been one of the first to finish her route, being sure most of her customers have their mail by early afternoon. Other contractors are hard-pressed to get back to the office before 5 p.m. when the outgoing mail is packed on the truck bound for Longmont. Karin hired a substitute who had been a former route contractor, so was approved to deliver mail but had been the previous target of the postmaster for unknown reasons. Evidently an independent postal contractor does not have autonomy in hiring practices.
Evidently there is a "three strikes and you're out" rule that can be enforced by the postmaster without any kind of hearing. Karin has appealed to the contracting officer at the Denver office and has yet to receive any reply.
It does not appear that there is anything any of Karin's customers or
friends can do about this. Evidently the postmaster can control who
comes into the sorting work space so Karin has been denied the right to
even work as a substitute on any other route. I am very sorry to see
Karin go and wish her all success in future endeavors."
We have received several 'tip' submissions about the current disarray
at the Estes Park Post Office; we are working on putting all of this
mess together in a cogent article. Have a perspective to share? First
hand information only please: SUBMIT TIPS. You may remain anonymous, but must provide contact info to verify your submission.