By DAVID KARP
© St. Petersburg Times, published March 30, 2000
TAMPA -- When Hillsborough County Commissioner Pat Frank learned that the outgoing leaders of Tampa General Hospital would get more than $1-million in severance pay, her reaction was swift.
She said it was outrageous. "I don't know how these people run businesses," she added.
But she didn't mention one point:
Frank voted for the severance package as a member of the Hillsborough County Hospital Authority in 1996. She was one of 11 members who approved the deal that gives former Tampa General president Bruce Siegel about $692,000, the equivalent of two years' salary plus perks, until he finds a new job.
Three members of the authority -- Jim Jimenez, G. Tiny Geiger and Bob Edwards -- opposed the deal in 1996.
Frank said Wednesday she was concerned about the severance package at the time, but felt she had little choice. If the board rejected the contract, the hospital would have had to start its search for a president over again, she said.
The private board should have fired Siegel for cause -- malfeasance -- and not given him severance, Frank said.
"I would not have paid him a dime," Frank said. Siegel did shift control of the hospital from the public board to the private non-profit board. But he also promised to build a research hospital near the University of South Florida and make Tampa General profitable within several years. Instead, the hospital has lost more than $30-million, and the move to USF was shelved.
Siegel's contract did not allow the board to withhold his severance package unless he had committed fraud, dishonesty, willful misconduct or gross neglect. He also could be dismissed for cause if convicted of certain crimes or if he became disabled or abandoned work for more than 30 days.
Frank said she would have preferred the hospital fight the issue in court if necessary.
She pointed out that the public board never voted on former executive vice president Shirley Gamble's severance package. Gamble was hired into her $315,000 position after the private board took over. Under her severance package, Gamble gets about $500,000 in a lump sum.
New Tampa General president Ron Hytoff declined to reveal his salary or severance package but pointed out that his old contract as the hospital's chief operating officer entitled him to a year's pay upon severance.
Hytoff made $225,000 as chief operating officer but got an undisclosed raise when promoted to president in February. He said that he serves "at the pleasure of the board" for an unspecified period of time. The board didn't ask him to sign a new employment contract when he was named Tampa General's president.
"I'm on a handshake," he said.