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Weekly Newspaper and Tourism Guide for Ward County Trans Pecos, Big Bend of West Texas

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July 2, 1998

News wins excellence award

Special to the News

SAN ANTONIO -The Monahans News is the winner in the Texas
Press Association's general excellence competition for 1998.

It was the first time in 51 years the newspaper had been
judged the best in Texas. The last was in 1947 when The
Monahans News also won first in general excellence. There
were no newspaper press association awards for a
half-century after that until The Monahans News earned West
Texas Press Association commendations in 1997 for features
(first), general excellence, columns and editorials.

This year statewide recognition did not stop with general
excellence. The Monahans News also won the sports coverage
competition and earned third place in design.

Some comments on The Monahans News from the Missouri judges
who ranked the general excellence of Texas newspapers:

"Attractive paper with a good variety of coverage."

Those judges gave The Monahans News excellent ratings on a
five-level scale from poor to excellent, in news coverage,
writing, graphics, front pages and the specialty pages -
editorial, sports, lifestyles. Print quality and headlines
were classified as good.

More comments:

"Very good presentation . . . An enjoyable read."

"Entertaining . . .clever use of words."

In the sports coverage contest, the judges ranked writing
quality and the range of coverage as excellent. Graphics,
design and headlines were classified as good.

Those sports section judges wrote: "Good coverage and
creativity in writing. Design is solid with good use of
headlines subheads, photos, graphics and color. Good mixture
all the way around. . . Enjoyed reading these pages. Nice

All of the honors came in the press association's Division
Six for weeklies whose circulation is 2,001 to 3,000. The
honors were based on newspapers published in 1997. They came
in direct competition against 114 other weekly newspapers
entered in the state contest. Members of the Missouri Press
Association judged the entries in divisions ranging from
the smallest weeklies under 1,200 circulation to the state's
daily newspapers. The Midland Reporter-Telegram won the
daily general excellance competition. Midland and Monahans
were the only Permian Basin or Trans Pecos newspapers to
earn first place honors in any division.

Jerome P. Curry, editor of the Monahans News, accepted the
general excellence plaque at an awards breakfast Friday,
June 26, which keyed the association's Summer convention in
San Antonio. Richard Acosta accepted the state first place
plaque for sports coverage, Acosta's focus at the newspaper
which serves Ward County. Curry notes winning press
association awards validates community newspapers as
quality newspapers.He also notes a general excellence
victory represents a united effort by all of those involved
in production of the winning newspaper.

"At The Monahans News that means Publisher Joe Warren,
Lifestyles Editor and financial officer, Linda Stephens,
Operations Director Jerry Caldwell, Designer Johnny Dalton,

"Advertising Director Ludi Garcia, account executive Dolores
Rivas, Mindy Rivas, Thomas Hestand," says Curry.

Curry also notes The Monahans News won because of continuing
contributions from Ward County residents who are not full
time staff members but who contribute weekly to make The
Monahans News the best newspaper in its class in Texas.
Those contributors include cartoonist Jane Nowlin and
columnist Frances Deck. They also include, Curry says,
residents who provide information and photographs on every
aspect of life in Ward County from youth sports to

"This recognition belongs to the whole of Ward County,"
says Curry. "We did something not done in a truly long time.
We did a good job but fortune plays a role in any such
competition. I have known editors, some of the best in
the world, who have struggled through their careers to win
a general excellence plaque and they fail."

General excellence involves design, typography,
advertising and writing over several weeks.

Late pay checks ruffle feathers

Tardy pay checks have shaken the county's troubled Ward
Memorial Hospital in Monahans.

Lower paid hospital employees were paid on schedule on
Friday, June 16, as were all the rest of the county's
employees. Administrative and other salaried hospital
employees received their checks by 10 a.m. on Monday, June

The hospital's interim chief executive
officer/administrator, James M. Robinson, and two section
directors - Rae Gressett of radiology and Nichole Venters of
the pharmacy - quit. Similar terminations are being
considered by other key hospital personnel, several workers

Steve Holmes of Lubbock becomes the fiscally ill medical
center's third interim chief executive officer and
administrator in a month. His predecessors were Ray Mason,
who returned to a full time position and Robinson, who
officially came on board on June 1 as Mason was leaving, and
now is in Fort Worth.

Robinson was the first administrator appointed under the
management agreement signed on June 11 with Covenant Health
Systems Inc. of Lubbock. Covenant was formed by the official
merger on June 4 of Lubbock Methodist and St. Mary's of the
Plains Medical Center.

Here is the chronology of the most recent events at Ward

Tuesday, June 23 - Then administrator Robinson asked the
County Commissioners Court for the right to transfer
$213,500 from the hospital's physician recruitment accounts
and ambulance subsidy accounts to the payroll accounts to
ensure that 155 checks could be issued on Friday, June 26.
The commissioners court took no action on the request after
the county treasurer reported she could hold about $30,000
in checks that would have been written to cover the about
$24,000 hospital officials projected they would be short on
pay day.

Before Robinson came on board, county commissioners told the
hospital board the hospital must pay its own way. They told
the board the county no longer could afford to subsidize the
county hospital's pay roll.

Friday, June 26- then interim administrator Robinson
decided to resign from the job a little more than three
weeks after he officially came on board. He knew at that
time all of the hospital's employees would not be paid
because the expected hospital revenues had not arrived.

At 2 p.m. on that day when the Hospital Board of Managers
convened, Robinson told the hospital trustees the hospital
was $14,006.30 short of making pay roll. Then he quit,
walked out of the room and began cleaning out his desk.

Robinson says he resigned when it became apparent higher
paid hospital workers would not receive their pay checks

"I was told by my lawyer that all my assets, the fruit of
more than 30 years work, would be at risk in potential
litigation if I did not resign," says Robinson. "I had no
other choice."

Friday, he said: "This is the worst day of my 30-year
hospital administrative career."

After Robinson's resignation and in an emergency session
later that day, the hospital board took up the issue of how
the hospital employees were to get their checks.

It was noted that all other county employees were to be paid
on schedule.

"Anything we do will be illegal but we have to decide what
is right," Kay Watson, the vice chair of the board, told her
fellow trustees.

It was then the board began to persuade salaried and other
employees to sign a memorandum saying they would be willing
to forego their regularly scheduled checks so that the other
checks could be issued to hospital employees.

Sunday, June 28 - Dyer Moore, chair of the Hospital Board of
Managers, rushed back to Monahans from a Rocky Mountain
vacation after being informed about the latest hospital
financial crisis and its volatile fall out

"I cannot predict the future and what will or will not be,"
says Moore. "I do pledge to the citizens of Ward County I
will do everything in my power to see we have a financially
stable hospital with a staff of happy employees continuing
to provide excellent medical and health care to Ward County."

Monday, June 29 - Gresset and Venters quit.

Holmes comes to Monahans with James Bullard, vice president
for regional hospitals for Covenant Health Systems Inc.
Bullard announces that Holmes is the new interim
administrator at Ward Memorial Hospital.

Those Ward Memorial Hospital employees who were not paid on
Friday are paid about mid-morning.

Wednesday, June 30 - Chief Financial Officer Robert Foret
leaves Monahans for a long Independence Day Weekend after
acknowledging he had asked the hospital board to renegotiate
his contract.

Hospital finances heat political race

Candido Gutierrez, the Republican candidate for Ward County
Judge in November, charges County Judge Sam G. Massey
caused the latest financial crisis at Ward Memorial
Hospital in Monahans.

Democrat Massey says he is appalled at anyone using the
hospital's problems for what Massey says is basically a
political maneuver.

Gutierrez says Democrat Massey and the Commissioners Court
took an illegal action when all of the hospital employees
were not paid as scheduled on Friday, June 26. The reason,
says the candidate, is hospital employees are county
employees and all other county employees, including the
commissioners, were paid on schedule.

Massey responds this is proof that Gutierrez is not
familiar with the workings of county government.

Gutierrez says Democrat Massey, his opponent in the
November elections, did it by encouraging the
Commissioner's Court to take no action on an option that
Gutierrez says would have mitigated the pay day crisis last
week for hospital employees.

"I am very concerned about losing this hospital. I want a
county hospital accessible to every one in this county,"
says Gutierrez. "I want a hospital that provides health care
for the citizens whether or not they have health insurance
and most of them do not."

The Commissioners Court decided on Tuesday, June 23, to
take no action on then Ward Memorial Interim Administrator
James M. Robinson's request to transfer more than $200,000
from the hospital's physician recruitment and ambulance
subsidy funds to the payroll account maintained by the
county. Robinson said he needed the money to make the
hospital's payroll of about $142,000.

No action was taken after the county treasuer said about
$30,000 in checks could be held and that would be sufficient
to cover the then projected shortfall of about $24,000. But
revenues did not match projections and high level hospital
employees did not receive checks on schedule Friday, June
26. All other county employees were paid.

"It is unconscionable for the judge and the commissioners
court to have done this," says the GOP county judge
candidate. "They denied the hospital administrator the right
to use hospital money to meet hospital payroll."

Gutierrez also says: "It is illegal to work some one and not
give them a timely paycheck. This was a violation of fair
labor standards and U.S. Wage and Hour laws. Hospital
employees are county employees. The county is obliged to

Says County Judge Massey: "First, the hospital was not
denied funding to cover the projected loses. They asked for
$24,000 and the county auditor cme up with a plan to
transfer more than $30,000 which would come from holding
checks - at least one, possibly two.

"That was completely acceptable to the hospital
administrator. No body denied anyone.

"The hospital just didn't get the dollars they thought they
were going to get.

"Based up on that I asked the county commissioners if they
wanted to take action and got no response. I asked twice."

Gutierrez emphasized that the hospital employees should
have been paid because they were the same as other county
employees. The GOP candidate says: "It is a county hospital."

Massey responds that the 11 workers who did not receive
their checks on Friday were paid on Monday.

"They signed a waiver," says Massey. "They signed a waiver
to wait until the funds were available and they were paid

Chairman wants action on fiscal needs

Dyer Moore, chair of the Ward Memorial Hospital Board of
Managers, says it is time for trustees and citizens to move
actively toward resolving the hospital's chronic fiscal

More warns steps must be taken and taken aggressively for
the betterment of the hospital, its workers and the citizens
of Ward County, who depend on the hosital in Monahans for
health care.

"It is time to quit walking on egg shells," says Moore. "It
is time we faced all our problems directly and head on."

Of the latest developments in the tortured trail that Ward
Memorial Hospital follows, Moore sees hope, saying:

"We may be at the worst part of our road and it's time to do
the dirty business we have to do to get a financially
healthy hospital.'

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Copyright 1998 by Ward Newspapers, Inc.
Joe Warren, Publisher
107 W. Second St., Monahans TX 79756
Phone 915-943-4313, FAX 915-943-4314

Associated Press text, photo, graphic, audio and/or video material shall not be published, broadcast, rewritten for broadcast or publication or redistributed directly or indirectly in any medium.

Copyright 1998 by Ward Newspapers Inc.