Beginning in August, county commissioners questioned how Weems Memorial Hospital could justify awarding more than $75,000 in salary increases in fall 2015 to its top six administrators as part of hospital-wide pay hikes to staffers.
Ultimately the raises were rescinded and how much, if any of the salary increases will be reinstated still remains in question.
At the Aug. 16 county meeting, when confronted with the hefty pay boost awarded administrators, Weems CEO Mike Cooper promised improved hospital finances and declined to reconsider the raises given to staff, saying they were based on sound financial analysis.
According to documentation provided commissioners, the salary hikes went to Cooper, who received about $15,000 and now earns $165,000 annually; Chief Financial Officer John Graham who received $10,962 more and now makes $121,000; Director of Nursing and Licensed Health Risk Manager Becky Gibson who received $13,416 and now makes $90,126; Human Resources Director Ginny Griner who received $10,379 and now earns $77,334; Director of Revenue Cycle Management Jordan Fulkerson who received $1,310 and now makes $76,315; and Director of Plant Operations Craig Gibson who received an increase of $25,376 and now earns $71,739.
Cooper said the raises to all staffers were the result of a detailed cost analysis. He said nobody at the hospital had received a raise in four years and he was trying to adjust the incomes of employees to make them fairer because newer employees were hired at a higher pay level than long term employees.
"We were underpaying the staff by $500,000 compared to comparable small county hospitals," Cooper said.
County Attorney Michael Shuler said he had discussed the county board's authority to change the amount of the raises with a county legal advisor on labor related issues. He said commissioners could order the salaries to revert to a specific date if the order applied to all hospital staff. Commissioners voted unanimously to have Cooper do so.
Allen Feifer, with the Concerned Citizens of Franklin County, suggested the hospital set a minimum wage of $11 per hour for all employees. Commissioners Noah Lockley and Cheryl Sanders both said they agreed with the plan.
At the Dec. 20 county meeting Cooper offered an amended set of pay increases to commissioners. On viewing the salary proposal at that meeting, newly elected commissioner Ricky Jones said he was not satisfied with the fact that not all Weems employees were making at least $10 per hour and asked Cooper to remedy that before the commission meets next week.