Munson Medical Center did itself no favors by withholding — for more than two years — the fact that former president and CEO K. Douglas Deck was paid more than $362,000 in severance pay and a $150,000 bonus when he suddenly resigned in early 2010 amid merger talks with Spectrum Health Systems.
In fact, Deck's severance, bonus, base pay and other perks in 2010 amounted to more than $1.65 million, including about $778,000 in accumulated retirement benefits, even though he left the hospital effective May 5, 2010.
Deck's unexpected departure came amid merger/alliance/partnership talks between Munson and Spectrum Health of Grand Rapids. Munson board members said Deck had decided to leave, but they would not discuss or confirm at the time that Deck received a severance package. Deck also declined comment.
Munson finally confirmed the severance payment last week because the financial information had to be included in its latest tax returns, which are public information because of its nonprofit status.
Deck had been the lead man for the proposed merger with Spectrum, but he was one of the few people in town who seemed to like the idea. It had little community support and a lot of people, including some Munson corporate board members, were openly critical. Some saw it as an effort to turn Munson into Spectrum North and wondered about Deck's advocacy.
Soon after he left, Munson Healthcare and his replacement, Ed Ness, said Munson would seek a second opinion on the financials behind the proposal. By September, the deal was dead.
Munson Healthcare board chairman Dan Wolf last week said contracts sometimes include separation pay and declined to comment on Deck's severance or separation.
That may be, but it doesn't sit well with people who pay big bucks to Munson when a non-medical administrator — who was advocating what many thought was a bad deal for the community — walks away with $1.65 million in accrued and severance pay.
Yes, Munson wants top administrative leadership and those people don't come cheap. But this certainly appears to be a case, like so many other instances of CEOs making exorbitant money, where the numbers simply don't add up.
It's a fair question whether Deck's leadership — which was clearly out of step with much of Munson's civilian directors and the community as a whole — was really worth that kind of money.
Munson may have been obligated to pay Deck that much, but it was also obligated to be more candid with its many employees and the community it serves. They deserve better.