Jefferson County Commission Bypasses Tyson in Health Care Authority Nominations

Jefferson County Commissioner Sheila Tyson (Source: Solomon Crenshaw Jr.)

Update: The commission in its Thursday meeting approved the nominations as introduced.  

The Jefferson County Commission voted Tuesday on the commissioners they intend to nominate to the UAB Healthcare Authority and Sheila Tyson, chair of the committee dealing with Cooper Green Mercy Health System, was not included.

A majority of commissioners agreed that chief financial officer John Henry should be recommended for a 2-year term, and county manager Tony Petelos and Commissioner Joe Knight to 1-year terms.

“I see the good ole boy network is still alive,” Tyson said. “If they wanted to start a road committee out of the gas tax and they didn’t want you (Stephens) on there and you are the chair of roads and transportation, you would have a problem with that. But it’s all right not to put me on the committee where I sit and have been working on.”

Tyson added that there is no community representation on the board, which she said her appointment would have provided.

Tuesday’s vote was not final. It was taken during the commission’s committee meeting, during which it decides what to put on the agenda for its official meeting on Thursday. The nominees will be voted on at that time.

Tyson was nominated for recommendation to the board during the meeting, but commissioners Jimmie Stephens, Steve Ammons and Knight voted for Knight. Tyson and Lashunda Scales voted no.

There was no argument concerning the nomination of Henry, who would administer funds through the Indigent Care Act for the care of the county’s poor. Ammons said he nominated Knight because he has a history in health care, a point Tyson said was not pertinent to the discussion.

Scales expressed concern that the selection process pitted commissioners against one another.

“I thank God I started at the City of Birmingham,” she said, “so this is no new chess game to me. I recognize exactly what’s happening this morning.”

Knight noted that he long ago said he wanted to serve on the health care authority if it ever came to fruition.

“I think this can provide the avenue where we can provide the very best care by the entity that’s most capable of running a health care authority and providing those patients with the care that they need,” Knight said. “More importantly, it gives us an avenue to follow up … and see why they had to go to that emergency room and in the long run, cut down on our ER visits.”

The state law allowing establishment of a health care authority set three positions on the board that would be nominated by Jefferson County. Those nominees must be approved by UAB, which would be taking the lead in establishing the authority, provided a plan to set up the authority becomes final. The parties are in a due diligence stage of the process.

Stephens said Cooper Green has always been controversial, urging that commissioners work together “to work through this transition and to continue setting this board up to where it serves the people.”

Stephens said later that he sees Petelos’ role on the board as a transitional one. He said he will nominate Tyson for the next 1-year term.

In response, she said, “You’re not going to put me on there after you have torn it up and ruined it. It won’t be able to function and then you’re going to try (to) place me on there a year after and I have to suffer all the consequences of what they did.”

Stephens said Knight has been working on the transition of Cooper Green since 2010. He said Knight’s appointment would provide congruency in the final steps of the process.

“I do feel Commissioner Tyson deserves a position on that board,” the commission president said. “It will be my recommendation, my nomination at the end of the first term to place her on that board. I feel during this transition to have that congruency with the people who have been here from day one in order to move the county forward.”

Chief deputy county manager Walter Jackson noted that the plan is for the authority to begin on Jan. 1. UAB officials will consider the nominees to the health care authority board Friday and present their package to the UAB board of trustees in August.

The trustees will then vote whether to establish the health care authority.