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Board of Nashville General Hospital postpones decision on contracts worth half a million dollars for PR and marketing - Tennessee Lookout

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    Nashville General Hospital’s oversight board, for a second time, deferred a vote on a pair of high-dollar, no-bid public relations and lobbying contracts with a single firm co-founded by former Metro Councilmember Jerry Maynard and his sister, Misha Maynard, who serves as president.

    The company, Community Health Marketing, is seeking a three-year contract for government relations at a cost of $13,000 per month. A second community relations contract for public relations, marketing and community events would cost the hospital $26,000 per month, with a clause allowing the company to bill $160 per hour for any work beyond 36 hours per month. 

    Community Health Marketing’s prior contracts with the hospital for similar work, totaling $30,000 per month, expired June 30. 

    The proposed new contracts with the company did not go through competitive bidding such as a request for proposals.

    “Why wasn’t there an RFP?” one board member asked. In broadcasted audio of the meeting, participants did not always identify themselves before speaking. 

    Nashville General Hospital board questions cost of $500K PR, lobbying contract with Jerry Maynard

    The board’s designated attorney, Metro Legal Department attorney Derrick Smith, told members that under state procurement rules the new contracts must be competitively bid. 

    Hospital staff told the board they had consulted outside legal counsel just before Thursday’s meeting and were told the contracts fell under a “professional services” exception to state law. 

    The exception includes “legal services, fiscal agent, financial advisor or advisory services, educational consultant services, and similar services by professional persons or groups of high ethical standards,” the law says. 

    Smith, the board’s attorney, reminded board members he was their designated lawyer and questioned the ethics of the board relying on legal advice from outside counsel. 

    Even as board Chair Richard Manson made repeated efforts to elicit a vote in favor of the contract, saying “I don’t want us to get stuck on this notion we are putting it out for bid,” some board members balked.

    “I’m just bothered by the fact we’ve been told by our counsel there has to be a RFP,” one board member said. 

    The steep price of the contracts provoked sticker shock among some on the public hospital’s governing board when they first came for a vote in June.

    On Thursday, members expressed concern about the open-ended nature of the marketing contract, which included an hourly billable rate of $160 with no cap on the number of hours that could be billed. 

    Manson suggested removing that provision, limiting the contract to a one-year period instead of three and adding a 90-day termination clause for cause, but a majority of the board ultimately voted to defer any vote on the contracts until they received more information.

    In a presentation to the board before their discussion on the contract, Jerry Maynard detailed the work of his company on behalf of the hospital, whose mission is to serve all patients regardless of ability to pay and relies on public funding from the Metro Council, which consistently approves fewer dollars than the hospital seeks. The hospital operates at about a $7 million annual deficit. 

    Maynard noted his long-standing relationships with Metro Councilmembers and state and federal officials who have helped the hospital move forward in a “very difficult environment.”

    After years of being denied so-called “4% funds” – funding to use for capital expenditures such as building repairs and equipment – the hospital has now landed approximately $7 million in 4% funding, Maynard said. 

    He detailed the meetings he had arranged between CEO Dr. Joseph Webb and state lawmakers, the U.S. Speaker of the House and congressional delegates, particularly U.S. Rep. Mark Green, whom he described as the “crown in our relationship.” 

    The company has also helped increase both the hospital and Webb’s social media presence, provided media training and garnered media mentions, he noted.

    “We’ve been quite effective in moving the needle regarding the government and community,” he said, noting he believes the efforts have driven more paying patients to the hospital.

    “When we started in 2018, the majority of our patient population was uninsured,” Maynard said. “Today the majority is insured … we are moving the needle.”

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