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Hendershot wants meetings open

May 05, 2004|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

gregs@herald-mail.com

The Hagerstown City Council gained another vote in favor of holding open meetings with Washington County Hospital officials after Councilman N. Linn Hendershot said he has changed his mind.

Mayor William M. Breichner said Tuesday that the hospital's president and chief executive officer has requested an open meeting, although the council did not decide whether a meeting scheduled for next Monday would be open or closed.

The council has met twice behind closed doors with Washington County Health System officials. The health system owns and operates the hospital, and has submitted plans to state agencies for relocation of the hospital from East Antietam Street to a site near the Robinwood Medical Center.

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The city has spent more than $292,000 in legal and consulting fees to dispute the plans, which city officials have said do not appear to be in the best interest of residents.

James Hamill, the health system president and CEO, could not be reached for comment Tuesday night, health system public relations director Maureen Theriault said.

Hendershot said as recently as last week that he was in favor of closed meetings with the hospital.

Hendershot was the only one of the five council members who said he favored closed meetings, although other council members said that while they preferred open meetings, they would allow the hospital officials to make the call.

Councilman Kristin B. Aleshire is the only council member who has voted against closing the meetings.

Tuesday night during the council's work session, Hendershot said he initially wanted to meet with the hospital in private because that was a "good faith" effort to discuss health-care options, and that's what the hospital wanted.

"I've, unfortunately, come to the conclusion that I don't think that's possible," Hendershot said.

He said his would be the second vote, after Aleshire's, in favor of opening the meeting with hospital officials.

Council members Lewis C. Metzner, Carol N. Moller and Penny M. Nigh have said they would like the meetings to be open but they would leave the decision up to the hospital.

A meeting between the city and hospital officials Monday night was closed on a 4-1 vote, with Aleshire voting to keep the meeting open.

Hendershot said he changed his mind after the meeting Monday night.

"The public needs to hear the rationale of both sides ... to truly understand the situation," Hendershot said.

He said he believed "a lot of the innuendo will go away" once meetings go public.

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