Hospital, Foundation dust-up may be at end

Both sides want to end lawsuit filed last spring

A legal dispute between PMH Medical Center and Northwest Community Foundation, which has caused divisions in the community, may come to an end tomorrow or Thursday.

Claude Zehnder, president of the foundation, said the two sides will meet today to work on the final details of a settlement of the lawsuit brought by the hospital on May 24 in Benton County Superior Court.

“We are trying to come up with an amiable settlement,” Zehnder said. “We are in negotiations.”

If the agreement is concluded, it will be taken to hospital board’s meeting at 7 p.m. tomorrow at the hospital conference room. Members of both sides of the conflict expect to have large turnouts for that meeting.

“It has caused some strained relations,” Zhender said.

People on both sides of the issue are friends or, at least, acquaintances, according to Zehnder. Two of the of the hospital board members were on the foundation board when it made a decision that led to the lawsuit.

Zhender wouldn’t say if the Foundation will have to pay anything as a result of the settlement.

“We (both sides) have already spent a lot of money on lawyers, and they (the lawyers) are the only ones winning.”

The Northwest Community Foundation, which was founded to support the hospital years ago, added other purposes to its mission and changed its name in December of 2016.

The hospital board claimed foundation fund-raising was for the hospital only. The Foundation said the foundation was, and is a separate legal entity from the hospital.

Zehnder said the name was changed to reflect objectives of the Foundation other than support of the hospital.

At its annual A Night Out event last year, the Foundation raised funds for the Share House (safe haven for high school students), youth sports, the Princess Theatre, as well as the hospital.

The lawsuit alleged that the Foundation violated the state Charitable Solicitations Act (RCW 19.09.010) and has been deceiving the public.

Since that time, the hospital has severed all ties with NWCF and established its own foundation (PMH Medical Center Foundation).

Recently, foundation members and select hospital commissioners have been meeting privately to work out a settlement.

The Daily Sun reached out to the hospital for comment, but there was no return call.


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