Archive 2008 - 2019

Selectmen Prematurely Declare Victory with West Suburban Health Group

by William Dowd

The last time there was such a premature victory celebration was when George Bush stood on the deck of an aircraft carrier about two months into a 9-year war and declared “Mission Accomplished!” He was wrong, and so was Jay.  I was at the WSHG meeting too, so let’s count the ways. 

1.   1. While the issue of the huge surplus was discussed and while the WSHG adopted – for the first time – a policy on the surplus that will lower it by about 1/3, there was no discussion at all on the more fundamental questions of why there is a surplus in the first place. I asked this question of the Board in October of 2012. I asked this question of WSHG in late January 2103. Not only have I never received an answer to this question, the topic wasn’t even discussed. That’s one big issue that was NOT “taken care of” on February 19.

2.   2. In October of 2012, I asked the Board why the Town’s agreement with WSHG provided for full allocation of Group deficits to Holliston, but forfeiture of any surplus if we left the group. I asked this same question of the WSHG in January. Again, not only have I still not received an answer to this question, the topic wasn’t even discussed on February 19.

3.  3. In October of 2012, I raised a concern with the Board about a WSHG audit that disclosed a financial reporting deficiency. These are serious issues. I wanted to know what was being done to address it. I asked this same question of WSHG in January. After the independent auditor briefly mentioning it again in presenting the FY12 audit, it was never even mentioned again. Again, since October now, no answers from anyone on a serious issue with Group operations. 

Since I have to believe that Chairman Marsden would not intentionally mislead anyone with his report, I can reach only one conclusion; the ONLY real concern the Board had was with the size of the surplus, and since it’s being reduced, they’re happy. Consequently, the Board of Selectmen doesn’t care why the surplus exists and feels no need to explain it to anyone. The Board of Selectmen doesn’t care that the Town is party to a one sided financial contract to its own financial disinterest and feels no need to explain it to anyone. The Board of Selectmen doesn’t care about a reported financial reporting deficiency and feels no need to explain it to anyone. These are the “issues and challenges that have been put forward”. They weren’t even discussed. Does that sound like everything was “taken care of” to you? 

Health Insurance is the biggest budget under the Selectmen’s control. This is over $6 million a year in employee and taxpayer money. How is it possible that the Board is so lax in its oversight of this item? Even at a reduced surplus, the Group will still be holding about $700,000 of employee and taxpayer money and we don’t even know why. I’ve done this work for many years. I know the surplus is unnecessary. But couldn’t somebody who thinks it is at least make a case for it? I know it’s wrong for the Town to be held hostage to the Group over the surplus. But couldn’t somebody who thinks it’s a good idea at least make the case for it? The Selectmen signed the contract, and can’t even explain it? I know the financial reporting deficiency is serious. But couldn’t someone at the Group or Town Hall at least explain why he or she doesn’t think it is?

During his commentary on February 27, Chairman Marsden reported that there were many in attendance and everybody had a chance to make points or ask questions if they wanted to. He saw me there. It was as if “Bill had his chance and didn’t say a thing.” I’ve reminded Jay, and I’ll report here that I was specifically invited to “observe” the meeting.

The Board of Selectmen is not serving the Town well in the way it is handling all of these issues. The current approach of just ignoring the difficult stuff and hope it blows over is not going to work. There were a number of other troubling events at the WSHG meeting that will be a topic of a future article. I just didn’t want Chairman Marsden’s premature declaration of victory to be the last word on this. Far from it.

Comments (2)

I wouldn't mind holding on to $700,000 of the town's money either. Where do I sign up?

Mark | 2013-03-06 18:22:45


mimi | 2013-03-06 13:58:40