published Sunday, February 20th, 2011

Reporter's notebook


by Emily Bregel

by Cliff Hightower

Hutcheson ex-CEO's severance still a mystery

The amount of severance paid to departing Hutcheson Medical Center CEO Charles Stewart remained a mystery Friday.

When Stewart resigned Monday, medical center board Chairwoman Martha Attaway said she didn't know the amount of severance in his contract.

When the Chattanooga Times Free Press asked for the amount in an open records request, hospital officials waited exactly three business days -- the maximum time allowed under state law -- to issue a one-sentence response.

"In response to your open records request, Charles Stewart was paid the industry standard 12 months severance package," according to the statement from Haley Johnson, marketing director, issued late Friday afternoon.

Stewart resigned amid concerns about the hospital's multimillion-dollar losses and board frustration over lack of access to public financial information.

A financial adviser hired by the hospital trustees appointed by Dade, Walker and Catoosa counties filed a separate open records complaint with the Georgia attorney general's office in December, after the hospital tried to charge him $1,000 to access requested public records.

Johnson said Friday she would contact the hospital's legal counsel to further explain the hospital's lack of response.

SALES TAX JABBING

Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger spoke to the Pachyderm Club on Monday, breezing over a variety of issues.

But he took exception to the city advertising that it wanted to hire a public relations firm or educator to tell the public about the city-county sales tax agreement.

"That's like saying, 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help,'" Coppinger said, triggering snickers from the crowd.

He said he would not spend "one dime of taxpayer money on a public relations firm."

oh, CANADA

The visit of renowned education reformer Geoffrey Canada did not, after all, disrupt the Chattanooga City Council's meeting last week.

Several council members had talked about skipping the 6 p.m. meeting or leaving early to see Canada speak at UTC.

During Tuesday's committee meeting, someone piped up to ask if there would be a regular business meeting later.

"We'll have a quorum," Council Chairman Manny Rico said. "Who's not going to be here?"

A few hands shot up.

But every council member was present when the meeting began at 6 p.m.

about Emily Bregel...

Health care reporter Emily Bregel has worked at the Chattanooga Times Free Press since July 2006. She previously covered banking and wrote for the Life section. Emily, a native of Baltimore, Md., earned a bachelor’s degree in American Studies from Columbia University. She received a first-place award for feature writing from the East Tennessee Society of Professional Journalists’ Golden Press Card Contest for a 2009 article about a boy with a congenital heart defect. She ...

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