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ECU chairman: trustees weren't told about lawsuit


By Ginger Livingston
The Daily Reflector

Friday, May 24, 2019

East Carolina University’s Board of Trustees was not notified about the University of North Carolina System’s decision to file a legal complaint against Vidant Medical Center and Pitt County, the outgoing chairman said.

Kieran Shanahan, whose eight-year tenure on the Board of Trustees ends next month, said the trustees also were never told East Carolina University was going to be named as a plaintiff along with the university system.

“There was no vote taken to bring the suit. No votes related to the lawsuit that were taken,” Shanahan said.

Shanahan’s comments came several hours after the trustees met in closed session to discuss the complaint. He would not comment on the discussion but said he hoped the long-standing relationship between the hospital and medical school continues.

“East Carolina University, and the medical school in particular, enjoy and appreciate its longstanding very good relations with Vidant and what we do for the health and well being for the people of eastern North Carolina. We hope that will continue,” he said.

Only one of ECU’s board members, Leigh Fanning, was physically present at Thursday’s meeting. Eight other trustees participated through teleconferencing.

After meeting for more than 45 minutes, the board adjourned with no discussion and no action.

Also on Thursday, officials were awaiting final word on a request to issue a restraining order preventing Vidant Medical Center and Pitt County from implementing a new system of appointing trustees to the hospital’s board.

The university system is seeking the restraining order, a preliminary injunction and a permanent injunction to prevent the hospital and county from stripping the UNC Board of Governors of its authority to nominate nine members to the hospital’s board.

The Pitt County Board of Commissioners, the hospital board of trustees and Vidant Health board approved the amendments to the hospital’s articles of incorporations. They had shared the duties with the Board of Governors since the mid-1970s when the hospital, then owned by the county, entered an agreement to become the medical school’s teaching facility.

Under the amended articles, the Pitt County Board of Commissioners will appoint 11 of the 20 individuals who serve on the hospital board. The hospital trustees will appoint the other nine individuals from nominees submitted by Vidant Health.

Under the new appointment guidelines, two of the nine members appointed by the trustees will live outside Pitt County and two appointments shall be “leadership positions” at East Carolina University. A doctor who lives in Pitt County and who is an active member of the hospital’s medical staff must be one of the commissioners’ appointments.

Contact Ginger Livingston at glivingston@reflector.com or 252-329-9570.