Four longtime members of the St. Marys Hospital Authority and its attorney announced their immediate resignations Tuesday ending a long power struggle with city officials.
The four members — Gail Eaton, Chuck Lanham, Colby Stilson and Frank Frasca — chose to resign rather than continue to argue with city officials over the way the authority manages the senior citizen program.
Jim Stein, the authority’s lawyer, said the city tried twice to take control of a bank account containing more than $3.5 million. The proceeds came from the sale of the convalescent center overseen by the hospital authority. After the sale, a judge ruled the authority could continue to exist in the capacity of administering the senior citizen program.
Stein said city officials never showed any interest in the senior program or made suggestions on possible improvements prior to creating a task force to look at the senior program.
“It has become the authority with no authority,” he said.
With the resignations, Stein said the bank account check book, building keys, a tape recorder and other documents would be handed over to the remaining authority members
“I realize that turning it all over to them is not what many would want to see, but there is no way they can work under the current conditions,” Stein said. “That is impossible.”
Eaton, who was the board chair, said she could no longer work with certain city council members, the mayor and “hand-picked associates.”
“The purpose of an independent authority has been defeated by the city and the ill-fated task force that has failed to do anything to benefit the program,” Eaton said.
Frank Frasca, former chair and authority member the past 11 years, said it is an “absolute fact” there would be no senior center and the programs currently offered without the authority.
He said a task force created more than a year ago to look at the senior programs turned adversarial with city officials. He said program such as Zumba, Tai chi, Helping Hands, library visits, Camden House and other programs are threatened.
“What you are left with are the efforts of a dedicated group of committed folks who put in their time, efforts and talents to provide for the seniors with zero input from the city,” Frasca said. “We were considered an asset, and now we’re considered the enemy.”
Frasca told the two remaining board members at the meeting that those resigning “can’t begin to work with you to undo all that has been done because of some of your antics without regard of the consequences and the truth.”
Lanham, who served on the authority more than 17 years, said he believes the intent all along was for city officials to control the $3.5 million in the bank and the $450,000 building that serves as the senior center.
“Why wasn’t this a problem long ago?” he asked. “I’ll tell you why. Because the task force, city council, city manager and the mayor have decided they can pad the board with their people and find a way to get their hands on the money.”
Now, Lanham said the pressure is on the city to manage the senior program better that the resigning authority members.
“Well, after tonight it is pretty much yours, and I don’t want to be part of seeing it go down the drain, which it will,” he said. “How long you will maintain it, we will have to wait and see.”