In the final analysis, Richard J. Stull II was right-politics did play a part in the flamboyant administrator's recent surprise decision to resign as president and chief executive officer of North Broward Hospital District, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
But it wasn't pure partisan politics that led Mr. Stull to leave the four-hospital public system and take the No. 2 job with a national pediatric management firm.
It was more a political question of whether the seven-member North Broward board could continue to take the heat of paying Mr. Stull more than what the governor of Florida and even the president of the United States make, a fact Mr. Stull liked to brag about.
As pressure from outside the system mounted to reduce Mr. Stull's $313,000 annual salary, board members publicly called for a pay cut. Mr. Stull reportedly sought a six-figure raise in his compensation package, which had been frozen for 18 months in a salary dispute (Dec. 6, 1993, p. 64).
In a recent interview, Mr. Stull said his decision to leave on Dec. 5 wasn't based solely on money. He said he made a "career decision" after a board meeting earlier this month.
"I'm a Republican. I get the feeling that people felt the job should be held by a Democrat," he said.
Mr. Stull said he finally reached that conclusion earlier this month, when he presented the board, which is appointed by Democratic Gov. Lawton Chiles, with the district's 1994 budget.
The figures Mr. Stull presented were upbeat. North Broward earned $9.2 million in 1994 on net patient revenues of $353 million. But that apparently didn't outweigh other considerations, he said.
"We were several hundred thousand dollars over budget," Mr. Stull said. "The board didn't seem interested, and there was no discussion. I came to the conclusion they wanted their own person in there."
On Dec. 6, Mr. Stull will become executive vice president of Pediatrix, a Fort Lauderdale-based pediatric services management company.
But Mr. Stull won't walk away from North Broward empty-handed. He will receive $178,000 in unused sick and personal leave he has accumulated since 1972.
In his six years as CEO, Mr. Stull, 50, has been described by some observers as a sometimes ostentatious, aggressive, abrasive and "in-your-face" type of executive.
"I've been told I (am all that), but I just have to be myself," said Mr. Stull, who dresses in expensive custom-made suits and once sported a ponytail last year.
Mr. Stull is the son of Richard J. Stull, who headed up the American College of Healthcare Executives from 1972 to 1978.
He said being himself got him in trouble on occasion with physicians, board members and especially the local paper, the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel. Mr. Stull said he believes the paper heaped more criticism than praise on him over the years.
But he also is credited with expanding primary, trauma and AIDS care at the public system. He streamlined management, reduced taxes earmarked for the public hospital and improved the bottom line.