With all the recent discussions about the hospital’s nonprofit embezzlement scandal and today’s coverage of the taxpayers being on the hook for hospital debt, it is worth taking a look at what I (Tona Monroe) wrote about the debt and lack of information provided by Blount Memorial Hospital in November 2016. Some of you may recall that then Chairman Jerome Moon, who was appointed state representative by 16 yes men on the commission, cut me off for discussing information that the hospital should have been forthcoming with prior to asking the commission to approve refinancing its debt.
Mayor Ed Mitchell and Commissioner Dave Bennett are acting indignant now, but these two and most of the commissioners didn’t seem to be concerned about the taxpayers when they reauthorized putting the citizens on the hook for variable rate debt that have swaps attached. You can listen to the meeting here and will hear Bennett objecting to my pointing out that approving the hospital’s variable debt means that the county will still be responsible for variable rate debt.
Furthermore, when two hospital board appointments came before the commission in January 2016, I moved to postpone it for a month so that we could learn more about the nominees’ plans for the hospital debt and vision for the future. (See page 3.) The majority of commissioners didn’t seem to care enough to think we should discuss future plans for the hospital.
Thus, there are some who are acting indignant now but where was this concern when I tried to shed light on how the hospital was/is operating?
Those voting to approve the Blount Memorial Hospital Board nominees in January 2016
Allen – yes Archer – yes Bowers – yes Carter – yes Carver – yes Caskey – yes Caylor – yes Cole – yes Crowe – yes Farmer – yes Headrick – yes Lewis – yes Melton – yes Moon – yes Samples – yes Stinnett – yes
Those voting not to approve the nominees in January 2016
Akard – no Daly – no Miller – no Monroe – no
French was absent. There were 16 voting yes, 4 voting no, 0 abstaining, and 1 absent. Chairman Moon declared the appointments approved.
Those who voted to approve renewing the variable rate debt with interests rate swaps
Allen, Bennett, Carver, Caskey, Caylor, Cole, Crowe, Farmer, French, Lewis, Melton, Moon, Samples, Stinnett
Those who voted not to approve renewing the variable rate debt with interests rate swaps
Archer, Daly, Miller, Monroe
Those who were absent
Akard, Bowers, Carter
There were 14 voting yes, 4 voting no, 0 abstain, and 3 absent. Chairman Moon declared the motion to have passed and the resolution adopted.
The next time you hear that the county’s debt is finally fully fixed rate keep in mind that much of the hospital debt is variable, with swaps attached, and that you’re on the hook for it if the hospital defaults, thanks to a lackadaisical commission majority and mayor who didn’t demand more accountability and transparency from the hospital.
Rick Carver has a conflict of interest
Commissioner Rick Carver works for East Tennessee Medical Group, which is owned by Blount Memorial Hospital. He has a conflict of interest and should have abstained on both of these votes. He did not declare that he has a conflict of interest and voted yes on both.
Let freedom ring!