More than four months into their search for a new chief executive to lead South Broward's $1.8 billion-a-year public hospital network, the board of commissioners that governs Memorial Healthcare System reviewed a list of 10 candidates on Thursday — and this time, they got to see the names of every prospect.
The search to replace CEO Frank Sacco, who announced last summer that he will retire in February after 28 years in the top job at one of the largest public hospital systems in Florida, has divided the seven members of the South Broward Hospital District that oversees MHS.
They have disagreed on the process for recruiting a successor to Sacco, including whether the chief executive should craft a transition plan or not, and they have openly bickered over potential conflicts of interest, meeting minutes, and whether they should meet privately or in public to interview candidates.
The key concern expressed at Thursday’s meeting hinged on whether to promote from inside the hospital system or to bring in someone from outside. The consensus: promote from the inside.
CEO Frank Sacco was paid a base salary of $741,000 in 2014, and he earned a bonus of about $145,000. He also has accrued $798,000 in paid leave and disability, and he will receive an annual pension of $384,000 for 15 years, after which his benefit drops to $137,500 a year.
“We need stability,” said Florida Sen. Eleanor Sobel, a Broward Democrat, and one of eight speakers urging the board to promote from within. “I think we should go internally.”
The board voted 6-1 to appoint one of the internal candidates, Aurelio Fernandez, chief operating officer of MHS and Sacco’s second in command, as an interim CEO if needed beginning on March 1.
The board also voted to interview each of the 10 candidates provided to them by Korn Ferry International, which is being paid $330,000 plus expenses for the national search.
The search has been slowed, in part, because of the secretive approach taken by the commissioners, who met twice in December to review a list of 14 prospective candidates with only their career experience but no names.
We need stability.
Florida Sen. Eleanor Sobel
Commissioners had planned to narrow the list of unidentified prospects. But they changed course after the Sun Sentinel’s editorial board slammed the secrecy and then filed a lawsuit demanding the CEO prospects’ names under Florida’s public records law.
Korn Ferry claimed the prospective candidates were never contacted prior to their information being placed on the list, and that the list is a proprietary trade secret exempted from Florida's public records law.
Commissioners revealed the four internal candidates in December, and divulged Thursday six external candidates — dropping four prospects who did not want their identities revealed.
Former U.S. Sen. George LeMieux, an attorney whom the board hired to handle the Sentinel lawsuit and to advise them on Florida’s public records law, urged the commissioners on Thursday to conduct the search as much as possible in a public forum.
Memorial CEO candidates
- Nina Beauchesne, senior vice president overseeing the physicians group of MHS and formerly CEO of Joe Dimaggio Children's Hospital;
- David Bradley, regional president for Sutter Health in California;
- Jeffrey Brickman, a president of a group of six hospitals for Centura Health in Colorado;
- Aurelio Fernandez, COO of MHS who previously led numerous for-profit hospitals in South Florida, including Florida Medical Center in Fort Lauderdale and Hialeah Hospital;
- Kennon Hetlage, CEO Memorial Hospital West in Pembroke Pines;
- Robert Kelly, a physician and former COO of New York Presbyterian Hospital;
- Lee Ann Liska, CEO of the University of Cincinnati Medical Center and senior vice president of the UC Health System;
- Daniel McGinty, executive vice president for Allina Health, a 13-hospital system in Minnesota;
- Matthew Muhart, executive vice president and chief administrative officer for MHS;
- Christopher Olivia, a physician and president of Continuum Health Alliance in New Jersey.