Central Health launches search for new CEO

Mike Geeslin had announced his intention to depart by end of 2023

HomeCentral HealthCentral Health launches search for new CEO

Central Health, the local government agency that levies a property tax to pay for the healthcare of Travis County residents with incomes of up to 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level, has started the process of finding a new leader to replace its longtime chief executive.

Mike Geeslin

Mike Geeslin started as president and CEO of Central Health in May 2017, having previously served as executive director of the Texas Dental Association since 2014. Before that he was commissioner of insurance with the Texas Department of Insurance 2005-2011.

A press release issued April 11th stated Geeslin plans to depart the agency no later than the end of this year.

When hired his initial annual salary was $305,000. He currently earns $329,858, Ted Burton, chief communications officer for Central Health, said in an email.

Recruiting timeline for successor

Ann Kitchen

Central Health’s Board of Managers formed an ad hoc committee to formulate a process for finding and hiring Geeslin’s successor. The meeting held Monday afternoon was chaired by Ann Kitchen, who was appointed to the board by the Travis County Commissioners Court after serving as an Austin City Council member from January 2015 through December 2022.

The meeting at Central Health’s headquarters on Cesar Chavez Street was attended in-person by Kitchen, Charles Bell, Cynthia Brinson, and Guadalupe Zamora. Maram Museitif appeared later after an executive session to discuss the processes and timeline in more detail. Board members Shannon Jones, Amit Motwani, and Cynthia Valadez participated remotely. The meeting video is available in the archive.

Kitchen went over a Draft High Level Timeline that calls for issuing a request for proposals for an executive search firm in June and selecting either an acting CEO or administrator by this fall to permit sufficient transition time before Geeslin ends his tour.

During discussion of these draft plans Manager Bell stated that the proposed timeline looks good initially but he wanted to focus on getting an acting CEO appointed.

Cynthia Brinson

Manager Brinson said, “For me, it’s important for us as a group to think about the future and where we want this business to go and to hire a CEO for five years from now. Where do we want to be in five years? That’s the person we need to hire.”

Manager Valadez said the Ad Hoc Committee should meet more than monthly, as Kitchen initially suggested, and she wants the patient population to have an opportunity to submit what they would like to see in a new leader.

Kitchen replied, “Absolutely, that needs to be part of the process.”

The mechanisms envisioned for gathering that input from the community and stakeholders include surveys, website submissions, and advisory group meetings.

The Draft Scope of Work calls for the selected search firm to assist the committee to develop a step-by-step plan to announce the position, implement a recruitment plan, recommend top candidates for interviews, check references, and develop interview questions. The draft scope includes numerous steps pre-recruitment, during recruitment, and post-recruitment.

New leader will have a lot to learn

Central Health has undergone numerous major changes since Geeslin came on board in mid-2017, including redevelopment of some of the 14.3 acres of land on the Brackenridge Tract that it owns, loss of $30 million a year in lease income for Brackenridge Hospital after Seton built and moved into its own hospital across the street, and construction of new facilities, primarily to serve low-income patients on the county’s eastern crescent. The agency also sold $76 million in bonds to purchase and renovate a former Sears department store and build two new clinics on land it already owned.

In January Central Health filed a lawsuit against Ascension Texas (formerly known as Seton Healthcare Family) that claims a breach of contract allows Central Health to compel Ascension to sell it the Dell Seton Teaching Hospital. In response Ascension Texas filed suit against Central Health alleging the agency overenrolled indigent patients while refusing to increase its payments for services.

Another lawsuit filed against Central Health in 2017 is moving toward a trial. That litigation challenges Central Health’s right to continue giving $35 million a year to the UT Dell Medical School without getting healthcare services for indigent patients. In April the Bulldog reported on depositions of two medical school executives taken in that case. In addition, Geeslin was deposed last week, said one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys. (Rebecca Birch, Richard Franklin III, and Esther Govea, vs. Travis County Healthcare District, dba Central Health, and Mike Geeslin, in his official capacity only, Cause No. D-1-GN-17-005824.)

The Bulldog‘s investigation published last November showed that then-State Senator Kirk Watson (now Austin’s mayor again) circumvented the law to fund the new medical school.

Another attack on the annual $35 million payments may result from Central Health’s performance audit approved by the Travis County Commissioners Court approved April 4th.

Meanwhile the Commissioners Court is scheduled June 27th to consider allowing Central Health to issue Certificates of Obligation of up to $100 million “for (i) the acquisition, construction, improvement, renovation and equipping of buildings and land in northeast and east central Travis County to provide medical and clinical services and (ii) related professional services, including legal, fiscal, engineering and design fees, and costs of issuance.” With an assumed interest rate of 5.5 percent and a payout over some 40 years would total $165,744,500, payable from property taxes the district collects.

The agency’s Fiscal Year 2023 Budget totaled $300.8 million with reserves of $366.5 million.

Photo of Ken MartinTrust indicators: Ken Martin has been doing investigative reporting in the three-county Austin metro area since 1981. See more on Ken on the About page. Email [email protected].

Related documents:

Agenda for Ad Hoc Succession Committee Meeting, May 15, 2023 (3 pages)

Draft High Level Timeline for Selection of CEO and/or Acting, for discussion only, Succession Committee, May 15, 2023 (1 page)

Draft Scope of Work Elements for Search Firm Process, for discussion only, Succession Committee, May 15, 2023 (2 pages)

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