Jeffco Commission Blocks Consideration of Contract Physicians Proposal

Lashunda Scales and Jimmie Stephens talk after Jefferson County Commission. At center is Sheila Tyson.

County Manager Tony Petelos will have to try again next time in his effort to be able to hire and fire contract physicians at Cooper Green Mercy Health System because the matter was blocked from consideration at today’s meeting of the Jefferson County Commission.

Because the resolution was presented as new business, all commissioners had to agree to consider it at their meeting at the Bessemer Courthouse. Commissioners Lashunda Scales and Sheila Tyson voted no, thus keeping it from being introduced into the meeting.

It is the second time this week the matter has come before the panel.

The proposal was initially a late add to the commission’s committee meeting Tuesday at the courthouse in Birmingham. That discussion ended with commissioners saying they needed to hear more before giving the county manager the ability to hire and fire contracted doctors at its clinic for indigent health care.

The matter rose today among three items of new business. Commissioners were going to weigh those matters together, but ultimately dealt with them individually.

The first two items — spending $6,047.80 for the countywide Senior Citizens’ Pool Party at Memorial Park on August 1, 2019, and replacing a recently retired person in the Sheriff’s Department — were each agreed to be considered under unanimous consent, and each was unanimously approved by the commission.

The third matter died when, on a vote for unanimous consent, Scales voted no and killed the move. Tyson’s no made the official tally 3-2.

“I believe it’s very important that as Cooper Green goes under the UAB Healthcare Authority that we know exactly what the county manager is being asked it do on behalf of the commission,” Scales said. “It is my understanding there are some issues surrounding this particular request, which is why this resolution came forward. What I am asking is that information be provided — in writing — and it also be clearly spelled out to Commissioner Tyson, who is the chair of that committee, as well as myself and others what exactly the authority grants and we are approving.”

Commission President Jimmie Stephens said the resolution would have given Petelos the ability to handle contracted personnel at Cooper Green during the transition period to the healthcare authority. That includes hiring, firing and discipline, he said, adding that it’s similar to what Petelos does with county employees who are in the merit system.

“It was needed and necessary,” Stephens said. He said there is a particular instance that is coming up. “It would be sensitive in nature, and we were looking to keep that out of the public light concerning a licensed physician.”

The Proposal Can Be Considered Later

The matter is not dead. Should Petelos present the resolution at a future commission committee meeting, it can be voted onto the agenda of the commission meeting for consideration.

“The county manager will make a recommendation and the commission will now vote on it,” the commission president said. “The particular item would be: The county manager recommends the termination of … and it would be someone’s name in there, terminating the contract of a particular individual.”

Stephens said the matter likely will not require more explanation unless a commissioner requests it. “I would hope it would remain as private as it could,” he said, “in consideration of everyone involved. I would think for privacy issues that’s something we should do.”

The resolutions that were on today’s agenda were approved by unanimous consent, except for the commission’s controversial nominations to the healthcare authority.

Chief financial officer John Henry was named to serve a 2-year term on the authority, with the county manager and commissioner Joe Knight serving 1 year each. The matter passed on the same 3-2 vote as occurred during Tuesday’s committee meeting, with Scales and Tyson again voting no.