After months of public and behind-the-scenes consternation, the North Kansas City Hospital sale discussion may find a timely conclusion both in the courts and in Jefferson City. The North Kansas City Council on Tuesday night voted after a closed session to try to settle a lawsuit against them filed by the city-owned hospital's board of trustees.
That vote quietly preceded a bill landing on Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon's desk that would require a public vote to approve any sale of the hospital.
Lawyers representing the hospital on April 17 notified the Clay County judge hearing the lawsuit between the city and hospital that it wanted try and settle the case. Their filing cited new North Kansas City Mayor Don Stielow's clear victory over incumbent Bill Biggerstaff in the April 2 election as a reason for renewed optimism for a resolution.
Stielow campaigned against the sale of the hospital; Biggerstaff was mayor when the world, including the hospital, suddenly learned last year that the city hired an investment bank to advise them about the possibility of selling the hospital.
Other incumbents on the City Council lost in the April election, including one who fell by a single vote to a write-in candidate.
City officials have always maintained that no sale of the hospital was imminent, but the way it was carried out largely in closed sessions ignited skepticism among North Kansas City residents with an attachment to the city-owned hospital and an aversion to the thought of a for-profit corporation taking it over. The hospital wasn't thrilled with the idea, either.
Stielow tells The Pitch that the settlement negotiations would have both the city and hospital "start from square one, more or less."
Those settlement negotiations may not mean much if Nixon signs the legislation waiting for him.
Stielow says the city had some trepidation about precise wording in the bill, but generally likes what it would accomplish.
It would involve the following steps: At least two-thirds of the hospital's trustees approve a sale, then the majority of the North Kansas City Council agree, and then finally the voters would make the final decision.
"I want the citizens of North Kansas City to have the final say about whether the hospital gets sold," he tells The Pitch.