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Hospital District trustees seek probe of 2013 executive pay


Hospital District trustees have sent a letter to Indian River Medical Center Board Chairman Wayne Hockmeyer asking him to formally investigate the 2013 compensation package for former hospital COO Cindy Vanek and “other personnel issues” regarding hospital CEO Jeff Susi.

The request for an investigation stemmed from a Vero Beach 32963 article based on the hospital’s own tax records saying that Vanek – whom the hospital said resigned in early September 2013 – actually received a $100,000 raise for the rest of that year at a time when the hospital was struggling with a precipitous operating loss.

Vanek’s departure was described at the time to be a “mutual decision” to save money.

Further, Susi, who announced he was taking a 5.5 percent compensation reduction as part of the 2013 cut-back effort, actually received a $45,000 raise, according to the tax document. 

Vanek was quoted in the article as saying that she remained full-time at the hospital through all of 2013. Susi had explained that her bi-weekly pay may have appeared to be salary, but was, instead, part of her “separation agreement” and that it was “exactly what she was entitled to, no more and no less.”

However, while the hospital’s tax filing identified other administrators who left in 2013, it did not identify Vanek as leaving.

Responding to a question from Vero Beach 32963 about Susi’s 2013 compensation and his reported 5.5 percent pay cut, hospital spokesman Lewis Clark said Susi did take the cut, but it was spread out over two years and thus not reflected in the tax document.

At a meeting last week, district trustees, who direct tax dollars to the hospital for indigent care, questioned the apparent discrepancies between what the hospital announced in 2013 and what the recently-released tax records show.

“Was it a sweetheart deal, a golden handshake (for Vanek)?” District trustee Marybeth Cunningham asked.

 “This ought to be of concern to the board of directors of the hospital,” said District Chairman Tom Spackman.

“It’s an issue they’re looking into, and we shouldn’t interrupt the hospital process,” said trustee Ann Marie McCrystal, who had warned earlier that negative publicity could hurt donations to the hospital. 

But Cunningham persisted: “We should formally say we want to be in the loop and know what they find,” she said, as other District trustees nodded in agreement.

As a result, Spackman composed a letter to hospital Board Chairman Hockmeyer, on behalf of the District trustees, which said: “At the Chairman’s meeting of the Board of Trustees on Sept. 29, several trustees expressed concern about the allegations in a 32963 article concerning personnel policy of Cindy Vanek, then chief operating officer for the hospital, and other personnel issues.

“While the trustees have general oversight responsibility for hospital activities, the Board of Directors has more authority and responsibility for specific operational practices. We are confident that the Directors will look into these charges and requests, and that you will report to us the results of your investigation.”

Prior to the district discussion at last week’s meeting over the apparent compensation discrepancies, District Trustee Alan Jones presented a packet on the feasibility of giving financial bonuses to the hospital for meeting certain quality standards.

In the packet, which contains information on area hospitals, Jones wrote that “IRMC pays the highest average salaries” among eight hospitals in the area, including the larger hospitals Holmes in Melbourne, Lawnwood in Fort Pierce and Martin Memorial in Stuart. 

In 2013, compensation for hospital COO Vanek was close to $568,000, and compensation for CEO Susi was over $1 million.