Editorial: BIHS Board needs to make member list accessible

Sun, 04/28/2013 - 4:00pm

The scenario reminds us of the plot of some paranoid Cold War thriller: a member of a board asks other members of the same board if he can see a list of the people he represents. The answer, right now, is no. Candidates who are running for open seats on that same board ask if they can see the list, if only to be able to campaign effectively and to get a clear understanding of just who their constituency is. The answer is, again, no.

This is exactly what is happening with the Block Island Health Services (BIHS) Board of Directors. Member Bill McCombe has asked to see the list, and at a meeting this week he expressed real frustration about being rebuffed. “It’s crazy,” he said. Bruce Montgomery and Peter Saxon are two of the six people running for three open seats who have asked for the list, saying they would like to be able to campaign directly to the people who will be voting in the election. But they can’t do that, either. It was suggested that they send in their messages to Executive Director Barbara Baldwin, who would then distribute the message to the members. That seems not only silly, but a phenomenal waste of Baldwin’s time. She has a medical center to run.

Secretary Kay Lewis has said that at least one member of the BIHS has asked explicitly not to have his or her name disseminated in any way, which is the de facto reason for not providing access to any of the other names on the list. One person asking to remain anonymous is too tenuous a reason for keeping the entire list “under a cloak of secrecy,” as McCombe called it. To solve this dilemma, all the board has to do is send out a blanket message to every member to see if anyone else feels the same way. Then simply go from there. It’s not complicated.

Except that it is. The fact that such an issue has been made of making the names accessible may make people suddenly think twice about it. The issue has become unnecessarily muddy. In that way, it’s important to remind everyone that all McCombe and the candidates are asking is to make the list of members accessible to them. We’re not looking to publish the names in the paper, and we’re not asking them to be released to the general public in any way.

At its last meeting, the board rejected McCombe’s motion to get access to the names by a 3-6 vote. It will be discussed further at a membership committee meeting at a yet-to-be-determined date. That’s not good enough. Ballots are being sent to the membership now. People may feel the need to vote right away. If you are a voting member of the BIHS, perhaps it might be wise to hold off on your vote until you are able to hear more from the candidates. (We will be profiling all six in The Block Island Times in an upcoming edition.)

We also ask that the membership committee meet as early in May as possible to vote on the issue of giving access to all board members and candidates so they can know who they will be representing. It’s the right thing to do.