Court documents appear to back up what was speculated from the day Martha’s Vineyard Hospital CEO Joe Woodin was fired on June 5 — that it was primarily about his handling of a certain employee.
Within the mountain of court documents unsealed at Dukes County Superior Court, the two sides make wildly varying claims and counterclaims about Woodin’s performance at the helm.
The documents indicate Woodin openly criticized the performance of the hospital’s development director, Rachel Vanderhoop, who is married to Timothy Sweet, chairman of the hospital’s board of trustees and the man who delivered the news to Woodin that he was being let go.
It was Sweet and Vanderhoop who issued an initial misleading press release that Woodin had stepped down. Within hours, even before he was escorted from the hospital grounds for the last time, Woodin told The Times he had been fired.
Attempts to reach Vanderhoop and Sweet were unsuccessful.
Woodin wrote in a text message Friday that he would have no specific comment on the ongoing legal case. “I am very pleased that all the details will be available for the public to review, and for them to be able to draw their own conclusions as to what happened,” he wrote. “I have nothing to hide or be ashamed about. And I still have great admiration for the staff at MVH. It’s a wonderful hospital.”
Woodin, whom Vanderhoop reported to, “shared the perception of staff that Ms. Vanderhoop’s performance reflected demonstrative incompetence,” court documents state.
Woodin’s attorney Laura Studen wrote in court documents there was no indication that the CEO wasn’t performing up to expectations. He received a “double bonus” in November 2016, and the hospital issued a promissory note of $250,000 in January to help him purchase a house and “plant roots” on the Island, according to court documents.
Woodin’s complaint alleges that the June 5 meeting with Sweet and Edward Miller, another member of the board, was “a complete ambush” that came as a shock to at least one of their colleagues on the board.
It wasn’t until two days after the firing that the board of trustees took a 14-1 vote to uphold Woodin’s firing. The decision set off a firestorm in the community, with questions raised about the board’s transparency.
Apparently, the hospital continued to pay Woodin his salary for about four months, to the tune of $130,750, making tax and benefit deductions, even though he had been terminated. Woodin’s annual salary was $400,000, with the ability to earn bonuses, documents indicate.
Woodin alleges breach of contract, and breach of a settlement agreement that the two sides appeared to reach in late September that would have paid him a year’s salary, $10,000 in moving expenses, and would have forgiven the $250,000 promissory note that was issued.
Woodin filed for arbitration in October.
Woodin also alleges that Sweet “acted with malice in his conduct,” according to the complaint.
Meanwhile, in its counterclaim, the hospital alleges that trouble with Woodin’s tenure began earlier on. “Within months of Mr. Woodin’s assuming his role at MVH, senior managers began to describe serious concerns to board members,” the hospital’s counterclaim states. “Mr. Woodin was a micro-manager and a bully. He was loudly dismissive of the prior administration.”
According to counterclaims filed by hospital attorney Herb Holtz, Woodin asked for a raise several months into the job. “It became clear that a real crisis of trust and confidence in the CEO was quietly shared by all,” the document states.
In a letter to the American Arbitration Association, Studen contends there was “no malfeasance” and “nothing horrible behind the curtain” that led to his dismissal. After the firing, a story was concocted that there were problems between Woodin and Dr. Peter Slavin of Massachusetts General Hospital, the parent hospital of MVH and part of the Partners Healthcare group.
In her letter to the arbitrator, Studen also pointed out that a practice by Woodin to issue “cash fines” for tardiness to senior managers was mischaracterized by hospital attorneys, who accused him of having a “belligerent management style.” The “fine” was $1, which “Mr. Woodin himself paid on a few occasions,” the letter states.
No dates have been set for hearings in the case.