On Wednesday, February 10, 2016, with little discussion and a quick vote, the Snoqualmie Valley Hospital District
Board of Commissioners voted to terminate the contract of CEO Rodger McCollum, who has headed up Snoqualmie Valley Hospital since 2004.
The special hospital board meeting was called earlier in the week to discuss “matters related to the superintendent’s employment contract,” which runs through early December 2016.
The meeting began with an approximate 15 minute closed-doors executive session – and it was clear when the commissioners returned, the meeting was not called discuss whether or not to renew McCollum’s contract, but rather to terminate it and decide just how much severance they would offer.
Three options were presented, all which offered a 30-day notice/transition period. Option 1 offered a full buyout of McCollum’s contract. Option 2 offered a three-month severance package and option 3 offered no severance.
The board voted against buying out McCollum’s contract, which then led to a second vote where members agreed to offer the middle-ground option: a 30-day transition period and a three-month severance package.
Had the members agreed on a full contract buyout, they would’ve alleviated the potential for a future lawsuit from McCollum for wrongful termination, but commissioners Heron, Pollard and Speikers said no.
When asked if the board had to present cause for the early termination, Hospital Counsel Jay Rodne said no.
Commissioner Herron urged the board to move quickly with the termination, saying more delays only further damaged the community and new hospital. Commissioners Young and Norris, who originally proposed buying out McCollum’s full contract, said it was better for the community to honor the contract they made with him and move forward with the decision positively.
In the end, commissioners Speikers, Norris and Herron voted in favor of the three-month severance and early termination. Young voted against it (as she favored the full buyout) and Pollard did not vote because earlier in the meeting he gruffly said he never considered McCollum’s contract valid.
After the short meeting, when asked about the driving force behind the board’s seemingly urgent action, Board President Dariel Norris said fiscal issues were at the heart of the firing, explaining that some fiscal issues had come up recently that raised red flags, but she did not elaborate further.
Norris acknowledged that McCollum had assembled a strong staff around him and was very well-liked by employees. She also acknowledged the controversial new hospital McCollum helped build and open in May 2015 would likely help the hospital district survive into the future.
Norris said because McCollum had assembled such a strong staff infrastructure, the board would hire from within to replace him, which they have only 30 days to do.
Staff members in the audience appeared saddened and not in agreement with the decision made by the board that has sometimes been described as dysfunctional.
One hospital staff member looked stunned after the termination vote, and through her tears described McCollum as a great boss.
Between now and the next regular hospital board meeting, a separation agreement and severance package will be drawn up for McCollum. It is expected to be finalized by the board at their March 3rd meeting, which happens at 6:30PM at Snoqualmie City Hall.