Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Two-year ‘cooling off’ period for elected officials eyeing $1.25 billion community foundation

New Hanover Regional Medical Center. (Port City Daily photo / File)

NEW HANOVER COUNTY —- At the conclusion of Monday’s County Commissioners meeting, Chairwoman Julia Olson-Boseman introduced a motion that was not on the agenda, putting a mandatory ‘cooling-off’ period on any elected official or hospital board member who wants to serve on the soon-to-be-formed community foundation managing $1.25 billion in proceeds from the sale of New Hanover Regional Medical Center.

Related: Will outgoing New Hanover commissioners take seats on $1.25 billion foundation board?

“I would like to make the motion that in regards to this newly created foundation, that any members of the New Hanover Regional [Medical Center] Board of Trustees, or any elected official, not be allowed to be on that foundation for a period of two years after leaving office,” Olson-Boseman said. 

With the sale of NHRMC to Novant Health, $1.25 billion in proceeds will go to a community foundation. A newly-formed board will oversee the investment of the money, along with roughly $40 million in annual disbursements to a wide range of causes in New Hanover County. After a temporary start-up board is named this fall, a full-size board will include five members named by New Hanover County commissioners and six members named by Novant’s new hospital board.

With considerable financial resources, the community foundation will be one of the most influential in the region — and that has led to speculation about who is eyeing seats on the board. With New Hanover County commissioners Woody White and Patricia Kusek announcing that they would not seek reelection late last year, rumors have swirled that the two had eyed seats on the board.

Last week, White said discussions were just beginning but he would welcome the chance to bring long-term institutional knowledge to the community foundation board.

On Monday night, Commissioner Rob Zapple seconded the motion, and the vote was 4-1 in favor, with Commissioner Patricia Kusek casting the lone ‘No’ vote. 

After the meeting, Zapple said he hopes this clarification will curb the behind-the-scenes politicking that has played out in recent weeks as different prominent figures have jostled to secure a position on the new board. 

Olson-Boseman said the decision to institute a cooling-off period came after learning that some of her peers may have been vying for a seat on the foundation board. 

“I wasn’t aware that there was a commissioner or two that were trying to get on the board,” she said. “I thought it was totally inappropriate.”

Olson-Boseman said she thinks the foundation will run more smoothly if it’s composed of community members, rather than recently-removed elected officials.

“My goal for this hospital and everything else is let’s get politicians out of this,” she said. “The last thing we need is for that foundation to be all white, male, and pale. We’re putting a stop to that.”

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