What is the price of a new direction?

(Tony Weeks at a BGH board meeting in March 2015.)

Was Brockville General Hospital’s former president and CEO fired, or was he asked to resign?

It’s a question BGH governors are resolutely not answering in the wake of the announcement, made public Monday, that Tony Weeks is no longer the hospital’s top administrator.

There is obviously a big difference between the two – or three, I should say, since yet another possibility is that Weeks was not asked to leave, but chose to leave.

The differences between these options lead to areas of speculation I will resolutely not explore here.

There is, however, an objective, financial difference between these possibilities, and that difference, for want of more precise details, amounts to roughly $264,000.

That area of speculation is and should be free for the public to explore, since it concerns the spending of public dollars.

Earlier this week, I asked BGH officials about what added expenses, such as severance or payouts, might apply to this sudden change at the top.

I was instructed to look at the CEO’s contract, which, to its credit, BGH puts on its website.

That contract sets the top administrator’s salary at $216,444 per year, minus deductions required by law and a three-per-cent performance-based holdback based on his achieving the hospital’s performance improvement goals.

According to the most recent Sunshine List, Weeks earned $211,209 in 2015, plus $1,197 in taxable benefits.

On the matter of “termination,” the contract provides for no compensation to the CEO should he be terminated by the hospital for “just cause,” or should the CEO choose to sever the contract on his own.

If, however, the hospital terminated Weeks’s contract “in its absolute discretion and for any reason other than for cause,” Weeks would be entitled to the equivalent of 15 months’ salary, less deductions required by law, since he has served at the hospital for more than two years.

I have no data on those deductions required by law, and starting my calculation with the base salary stated in the contract would highball the result.

So, for a conservative estimate, let’s take Weeks’s 2015 compensation of $211,209 and translate that into 15 months’ salary.

The resulting conservative estimate is that, if the hospital’s only reason for parting ways with Weeks is the “different direction” cited by board chairman Neil Bhatt, that change of course is costing the institution, and taxpayers, at least $264,011.

That is not counting accrued vacation time and possible continuation of benefits (Addendum: This latter item only applies for a notice period, if one existed).

BGH officials would not disclose the specific costs of Weeks’s termination or departure, citing the former CEO’s confidentiality rights.

Confidentiality is a legitimate concern, but I would argue that, in this case, the Public Sector Salary Disclosure Act places these figures in the realm of the public’s right to know.

If the package given Weeks will find its way into next year’s Sunshine List as a part of his total salary, why withhold the number now?

And if confidentiality trumps transparency, why would BGH feel the need to make its executive contracts public?

It may well be that, to put it cynically, $264,000 and a whole whack of change is the price of labour peace at BGH. It may also be the price of other goals BGH governors are seeking without elaborating in public.

The question of whether that price is or is not too high is a matter of legitimate debate.

But the public’s right to know should not be a matter of debate.