MARBLETON – A concerned resident approached the Sublette County Rural Health Care District Board (RHCD) at its regular meeting on Wednesday to raise her concerns about the Rural Health Care Foundation (RHF).
Kris Roark, a Pinedale resident and former physician’s assistant at the Pinedale Medical Clinic, sought information on the transparency, funding and general function of the RHF.
Established in July 2010, the RHF was created to provide financial support to the RHCD via donations, grants and other charitable programs. The current RHF board of directors, all volunteers, consists of President Chauncey Goodrich, Vice President and RHCD Secretary Cindy Van, Secretary/Treasurer Lynn Bernard, RHCD CEO Rob Harding, RHCD Chairman Dave Racich, Boulder resident Marilyn Jensen and Bondurant resident Bill Winney.
Last month, Wendy Friend was appointed the new executive director of the RHF, replacing Pinedale resident Dari Quirk. As executive director, Friend would be a part-time, paid employee, be overseen by the foundation’s board of directors and report to the RHCD once a quarter.
At Wednesday’s meeting, Roark explained she has been trying to find information, specifically financial information, about the RHF for several months to no avail. Eventually, Roark received some information but was still not given access to what is done with the money given to the foundation.
Roark’s biggest concern was the makeup of the RHF board.
“My biggest problem with the RHF is that three [RHCD] members [Racich, Van and Harding] sit on the board of directors of the foundation,” Roark said.
The appearance of impropriety is there, Roark added, because the RHCD is the main organization to fund the RHF.
“You give the money and you ask for the money … I understand it’s tough to get good members, but we elected you guys to watch our money. We didn’t elect you to beg for money,” she said.
Racich told Roark the purpose of having RHCD board members on the RHF board is because the two organizations have a similar mission statement – to provide and improve patient-focused health care. Harding concurred with Racich and explained the presence of Racich, Van and himself on the board created a “bridge” between the two entities.
“The goal [of the RHF] is to support the district, and there has to be a bridge that can communicate that,” Harding said.
Roark’s other question – why is the RHF not audited independently? – was answered by CFO Lorraine Gatzke, who explained the RHF does not make enough money to be audited separately and is included in the RHCD audit as a component of the overall district.
These answers seemed to satisfy Roark, but she still had concerns over the difficulty of receiving information. Roark did say she felt more confident with Friend as the new executive director because, after a long lunch, “she’s enthusiastic, personable and she understands.”
Racich said the RHF board has been having discussions over the transparency of the foundation and explained the RHF was in agreement the public needs to be made aware of how the it functions and operates. He also thanked Roark for coming forward because now the RHCD and the RHF is aware of public concerns and can properly address those concerns.
“This is good, healthy conversation, and we need those,” Racich said.
Two agenda items later, Friend approached the board to give her first quarterly report as executive director of the RHF.
“I wanted to take a moment and formally thank Kris [Roark] for brining up important issues and opening up dialogue,” Friend said. “We do serve the district and maybe, in the past, we haven’t done as great a job on the public relations side.”
Friend’s report consisted of the RHF’s income and expenses beginning January 1 and ending June 30 of this year. The report showed a total $51,669 in income, plus grants from the United Way and Smiles Radiology for $20,000 and $7,500, respectively.
A total of $14,612 made up the RHF’s expenses, including Friend’s salary of $9,900, $2,055 for a grant writing class and $850 for the foundation’s 501(c)3 filing with the U.S. Treasury Department. The foundation should expect its official nonprofit status in about three months, Friend said.
Friend concluded her report by saying the decline in the oil and gas industry makes having the RHF all the more important for the community because the foundation’s sole job is to raise money to better the area’s healthcare. Now, Friend’s mission is to show the public just how necessary the foundation is to Sublette County and increase and promote dialogue between the RHF and taxpayers.