LANCASTER — The governing boards of the Antelope Valley Healthcare District and Antelope Valley Hospital, Inc. appointed Paul Brydon as acting interim chief executive officer on Wednesday.
Brydon is a former chief financial officer for the hospital who has been serving in that role in an acting capacity since Oct. 17, when the current CFO Colette Nichols was place on paid administrative leave, along with CEO Michael Wall.
Wall and Nichols are on administrative leave while investigations continue into alleged improprieties, the exact nature of which has not been disclosed by either board.
Since that time, Antelope Valley Healthcare District Chairwoman Kristina Hong has been acting chief executive officer, as per district policy.
The appointment was discussed in closed session Wednesday by the district board and that of Antelope Valley Hospital, Inc., the nonprofit corporation established to operate the hospital under a lease agreement with the Antelope Valley Healthcare District. The corporation governing board is made up of the five elected directors of the Antelope Valley Healthcare District, three appointed community members and the hospital chief executive officer.
Brydon, 68, was offered the position during the following public session meeting. While seemingly surprised at the announcement, he said he was interested in the position during the meeting.
Brydon is a familiar face at the hospital. He first came on board as chief financial officer in July 2013, following more than 10 years as an executive at various hospitals in Southern California, including Verdugo Hills Hospital and Northridge Hospital Medical Center. Prior to working at hospitals, he was a banker for some two decades.
During nearly three years at Antelope Valley Hospital, Brydon helped guide the institution through financial challenges, including shoring up the pension plan and refinancing $140 million in debt, eliminating a balloon payment of $55 million that would had been due in 2017.
He retired in April 2016, ready to spend more time with his wife and travel.
However, in January 2017, Brydon came out of retirement to help the hospital through a transition period as interim CFO after the district terminated the contract of a management company and hired Wall. Nichols was hired three months later.
He was brought back as interim CFO on Oct. 17, along with C. Stephen Hext as interim chief operating officer.
Wednesday’s appointment is the latest action in a process that has been ongoing for just over two weeks, with a series of mostly closed session meetings of the two boards.
The district board first met in closed session on Oct. 15, emerging after two hours, to continue the meeting to 6:30 a.m., on Oct. 17. Although the board’s discussions were not made public, comments from the public made prior to the closed session alleged embezzlement, bullying and retaliatory tactics by Wall.
Also mentioned, were staff reductions made earlier this year, which impacted some 300 employees, while the CEO received a pay raise a year into his four-year contract.
On the afternoon of Oct. 16, Wall issued a statement to hospital staff refuting allegations made during the public comment period, calling such statements “outright falsehoods and partial truths.”
On Oct. 17, both boards met in the early morning session, which resulted in the decision to place Wall on paid administrative leave, while an investigation continues.
Later the same day, it was announced that Nichols was also placed on paid administrative leave.
At the outset of the Oct. 17 meeting, Wall requested the board discuss the matter during an open public session instead of behind closed doors, as personnel matters typically are handled under state law. So far, there has been no discussion in public of the matter.
The corporation board also met behind closed doors on Oct. 23, to discuss “CEO/CFO performance evaluation, discipline/dismissal/release” and anticipated litigation, according to the agenda. The board at that time, essentially ratified the steps taken by the Antelope Valley Healthcare District Board to place Nichols on paid administrative leave.
On Oct. 29, the corporation board met again in closed session for more than three hours to discuss Wall’s tenure.
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