GOP chair calls out Richardson

Published 5:18 pm Thursday, January 6, 2011

Staff Writer

In a letter to the editor scheduled to run in Friday’s Washington Daily News, the chairman of the Beaufort County Republican Party calls out a GOP county commissioner for his handling of issues surrounding Beaufort Regional Health System.
In the letter, local GOP Chairman Larry Britt expresses his dissatisfaction with the way Commissioner Hood Richardson has played his role as a member of the BRHS Board of Commissioners and the county board.
Britt expresses surprise that, in a called meeting Monday night, Richardson told “his fellow commissioners that they shouldn’t try to reopen negotiation” with suitors interested in partnering with BRHS.
Britt never names Richardson, but refers to him as “the commissioner who was on the negotiating committee for the hospital,” and he recalls the BRHS committee’s 2-2 deadlock on whether to affiliate with Community Health Systems of Franklin, Tenn., or Greenville-based University Health Systems of Eastern Carolina.
“He (Richardson) did state that it was OK for (commissioners) to ask a few questions, but in the end, just go with his committee’s results even though the negotiating committee ended with a two/two split,” Britt wrote. “After all, they got the most money for the county and that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?”
The full hospital board voted 5-4 to endorse CHS, which has offered the most money to take over the health system.
Britt didn’t sign the letter as chairman of the county GOP, and, in an interview, confirmed he wrote the letter in his capacity as a private citizen.
To read the letter, see Friday’s editorial page.
Asked whether he believes Richardson’s actions have been good or bad for the party, Britt said, “It’s a two-way sword.”
“He does a lot of things good for the party,” he continued. “And, at the same time, the way he is turns a lot of people off. But, by the same token, he gets the most number of votes at election time. So, there’s a lot of people who like him; there’s probably an equal number of people who dislike him.”
Privately, some members of the GOP have criticized Richardson for being too combative in meetings.
Asked if he had any personal objections to Richardson’s actions, Britt replied by saying, “Sometimes his manner and what he does can turn some people off. And I think what he stands for is what the party stands for, but he is to a degree that if anybody else is to a lesser degree they’re not even a Republican, and I have a problem with that.”
Britt asserted that deciding the future of the hospital shouldn’t be a political matter, but he also registered his dissatisfaction with the way the matter has been handled by the BRHS board and the county commissioners.
“I think the community and the Democratic and the Republican Party have been hurt by it,” he said. “I don’t think it’s been handled well at all. It’s gone on much too long as far as not only the (hospital) employees but the community as a whole. It’s something that should have been settled a long time ago. That’s what’s hurt the community is the indecision that’s been hanging over it for months.”
Richardson wasn’t immediately available for comment Wednesday. The Daily News provided his wife, Shirley, with a copy of Britt’s letter in an attempt to obtain a response.
Asked for his input, GOP Commissioner Stan Deatherage, Richardson’s frequent ally on the county board, indicated the conflict, if there is one, may boil down to a lack of understanding by some members of the public.
“Now that the commissioners are finally being brought into this process of leasing BRHS, we are finding there are some technical components to the negotiations that must be followed,” Deatherage commented. “Commissioner Richardson understands this. Many of the people in the public, including some commissioners, may not at this point. I include Chairman Britt as a member of the public that may not be up on the things commissioners can do and can’t do at this point.”
Deatherage suggested he doesn’t rely on the local GOP’s support.
“They do their thing; I appreciate it,” he said. “I stay out of their way and they stay out of mine.”
Republican Commissioner Al Klemm has criticized Richardson in the past, but declined to do so Wednesday.
“I’ve been around Commissioner Richardson since 2000. He’s different,” Klemm remarked.
He added, “I don’t want to do anything at this point to jeopardize these very, very serious negotiations that are going on, anything that would jeopardize my relationship as far as trying to work with the other county commissioners.”
As to the question of whether Richardson’s conduct should be taken into account from a political perspective, “That’s an issue for the Republican Party and the voters to decide,” Klemm concluded.