Resignation letter gives no reason for U.C. hospital CEO departure

Brad Hicks • Jul 10, 2012 at 9:56 PM

ERWIN — In his letter of resignation, Unicoi County Memorial Hospital chief executive officer Jim Pate commends the hospital’s employees and calls his experience working there “fulfilling,” but offers no explanation for the decision that led to his resignation.

Monday, the hospital’s board of control met in a called session and unanimously voted to accept Pate’s resignation. Pate was placed on paid 30-day administrative leave on June 22. This followed a June 18 meeting of the board of control, which concluded with a meeting of the board’s Executive Committee. The Executive Committee met to discuss what action should be taken concerning Pate, and the board agreed to place him on administrative leave. Members of the board of control previously cited Pate’s recent health issues as the reason for the decision to place him on administrative leave.

At Monday’s meeting, board of control member Russell Brackins said other reasons existed for Pate being placed on leave but did not elaborate further.

Toni Buchanan, the hospital’s financial officer, had been filling in as interim CEO since Pate was placed on leave.

At Monday’s meeting, Board of Control Chairman Todd Love presented members of the board with the letter of resignation written by Pate, which members read silently. Following the meeting, Love declined the Press’ request to provide a copy of the resignation letter.

Open records requests were filed Tuesday with Love and UCMH Interim Consultant CEO Jete Edmisson, who the board voted Monday to employ for a 30-day period. Edmisson said Tuesday that Pate’s resignation was a personnel issue and declined the request to provide the letter of resignation until the state codes pertaining to open records could be researched.

“From my standpoint, it’s an employee issue,” Edmisson said.

Love said he did not wish to release the letter without Edmisson’s consent.

However, Unicoi County Chairwoman and UCMH Board of Control member Sue Jean Wilson provided a copy of the letter on Tuesday. Wilson said she had consulted with Unicoi County Attorney Doug Shults, who advised that the letter of resignation was a public document.

Pate’s letter is dated July 9 and is addressed to Love.

“Pursuant to our conversation this afternoon I would like to tender my resignation as CEO of Unicoi County Memorial Hospital, Inc. effective August 22, 2012 with pay,” Pate’s letter states. “My benefits would continue until that time. Of course the vacation time I have accumulated would be paid after August 22, 2012 given the situation it would be acceptable for the vacation time to be paid on regular pay days until paid in full.

“I wish the Hospital success in the future it has been a pleasure working for the Hospital and the citizens of Unicoi County. It has especially been fulfilling to work with the employees of the Hospital. I feel that the Hospital has some of the best employees anywhere.”

At Monday’s meeting, board of control member Russell Brackins said that he believed that an Aug. 22 effective date for Pate’s resignation could create “potential problems” as Pate would still be employed as the hospital’s CEO until that date. After some discussion, a recess was held during which Love contacted Pate. Love said Pate agreed to change the effective date of his resignation to July 9. The board of control approved this, with part of that measure including the payment of severance equal to Pate’s benefits through Aug. 22 with the exception of health benefits.

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