Haley resigns from hospital district board over building purchase

MARATHON – Allen Haley of Marathon, a six-year member of the Big Bend Regional Hospital District Board, has resigned after being elected to a new four-year term last month.

In a letter to the Alpine Avalanche last week, Haley said his resignation, effective June 12, was because of what he called his “incapacity to affect the necessary changes” in the district’s financial policies.

The current board secretary, Haley said it had been “my honor and a privilege to serve the residents of both Brewster and Presidio counties as a member of the Board of Directors.” But he said he hopes whoever is elected to replace him “may be able to overcome the obstacles that have grown between me and the board, making my service to the district problematical.

“I believe with a reasonable degree of certainty that the hospital district is on the road to financial insolvency in the future unless something is done to change the way the Board manages taxpayer dollars being spent,” he said.

Haley voted no on June 6 on a plan to purchase the old First National Bank Building at 105 West Holland Avenue in Alpine for fear it would put the district’s budget in jeopardy. At the same meeting, the board agreed to sell its building at 106 E. Texas Street in Marfa.

Board Member Esther Howard, who is arranging both transactions, said it could be a “wash” with enough money coming in from the Marfa property to cover, or nearly cover, the cost of the Alpine building. But Haley said he was concerned that the Marfa property might not sell and there would not be enough in the budget to buy the new one.

Board Chair Lisa Taylor said Haley was “a very good director. He kept us in line making us do it the right way. I don’t know where he got his information from. We are in better shape financially than we’ve ever been.

“And a lot of that was because of Allen,” she said. “He suggested a lot of things and he headed the budget committee.”

But Haley said the board was “starting to get free and loose and were taking actions without careful consideration. They voted for several things without a scrap of paperwork on what is being worked on.” He said he did not think it was wise to spend “upwards of $400,000 on a building.”

The board voted to spend “not to exceed” $395,000. The $400,000 includes closing costs and others.

Haley predicted that the district would be $300,000 in the red this year and, while it recently had a fund balance of about $3 million, that has been depleted down to about $1.4 million.

“Sometime in the next two to three years, they are going to run out of money unless they can get an issue passed to raise taxes above eight percent,” he said.

The state requires a rollback election if a political subdivision budgets for an increase in revenue of more than eight percent.

“They should have waited until they sold the building in Marfa” before buying the Alpine property, Haley said. “Presidio County is trying to break out of the district and it may object to the sale.”

The Marfa property was declared surplus and unneeded “but we’re buying an office building,” he said. “How can it be surplus when we’re looking to buy another building? They might be able to block it.”

Some in Presidio County have talked about dissolving the bi-county district, which funds indigent health care, and using the Presidio County tax take to help fund a possible new hospital in Presidio.

Haley said he hopes the district can continue to exist. “I really hope there is someone in District 4 who wants to serve. It’s very critical.”

Taylor said the district is “putting the word out that we’re looking for an interim director to serve the balance of his term.”

She said it would be an “interim” replacement until the term expires but that that would effectively make it a four-year appointment.”

Hospital District Attorney Greg Hudson said the district’s bylaws indicate the appointment would be for Haley’s entire unexpired term. He filed for re-election in May and was unopposed. The term expires in May 2022.

A vacancy on the board isn’t covered in the enabling legislation, but the district’s bylaws state: “Vacancies on the Board of Directors shall be filled for the unexpired term by appointment by the remaining directors.”

For vacancies on city councils, school boards, and county commissioners’ courts, appointments are until the next election to fill an unexpired term, but that’s the case in this situation.

“We need to fill that slot as soon as possible,” Taylor said. “We want the best person for the position. Someone who is going to take the position seriously and has something to offer the District. They have to have a genuine feel for the Indigent and the responsibility of the taxpayer’s money. The right person is out there.”

In general terms, Single Member