Dear County Council - Don’t give away our hospital!
February 22, 2013
Mr. Freddie Houston
Chairman, Barnwell County Council
Re: Barnwell County Ordinance #2013
Pension Plan and Sale of Hospital
Dear Chairman Houston:
I was unaware of the Public Hearing at the meeting of County Council on February 12 regarding Ordinance No. 2013 _______ concerning the Pension Plan and Sale of the Hospital. I was of the view that the Public Hearing would be held on the Third Reading date, as was done at the September 11, 2011, Third Reading date of the APA Agreement with Dobbs to purchase the Hospital.
As you are aware, I represent a number of the Pensioners as well as certain Unsecured Creditors and thousands of Barnwell County Tax Payers who oppose the sale of the Hospital. Furthermore, I am pro bono and not being paid for my 20 months' attorneys work nor expenses in opposing the Hospital sale.
As regards the Ordinance, I strenuously object that it contains both the Pension Plan funding information and the sale of the Hospital in the same Ordinance. I am attaching a copy SEC Code of Laws Section 4-9-1210-1230 wherein upon 15 percent of the registered voters in a County petition County Council to have a referendum on any proposed or approved ordinance, the result would have to be considered by County Council. Basic fairness mandates that the Citizens and Tax Payers of Barnwell County have the opportunity to express their opinion, whether pro or con, as to the give-away of the 16-acre hospital facility and equipment contained therein, as well as the fact that Barnwell County, under the current agreement, is paying the Buyer to take the hospital.
The Pension Plan Report for the year ending September 30, 2010 was received on January 24, 2011; the Report for the year ending September 30, 2011 was received on January 25, 2012. For some two months now I have requested a copy of the document which should have been received by the Hospital not later than January 25, 2013 showing the amounts of accrued liability for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2012. The figures that are cited in the current Ordinance under consideration are certainly incorrect. I am satisfied the current liability of the County would be at least more than several hundred thousand dollars due. It is unbelievable that the 80 plus members of the Pension Plan do not receive any type annual report or statements from the pension company nor from Barnwell County.
On January 9, 2013, I attended a Hearing at the Bankruptcy Court when a Motion was scheduled to be heard to substitute the new APA and new Purchaser for the old APA that had been confirmed by the Court. Unfortunately, I was ambushed. The Court took the Motion under advisement and then testimony was heard for 7 hours until 5:30 p.m. on that same date. Mr. Eastman, the Principal of the Purchaser, under oath, during my examination stated the Barnwell Hospital would be profitable the day that the Sale Agreement was approved. Thereafter, the Hospital Attorney, on redirect, rehabilitated Mr. Eastman and he testified that during the first year, it would be profitable. It is unbelievable that the new Purchaser will pay to the Hospital absolutely zero for the purchase of the Hospital.
Each of you, except Councilman Buckmon, also serve on the Barnwell County Hospital Board. You are aware that there were incentive monies due to Barnwell County Hospital which involved considerable work performed prior to Dobbs or the current Purchaser entering the picture. There was $1.4 million in what is called HITECH (Federal Government requirement that all hospitals utilize uniform software and hardware regarding the payment of Medicare and Medicaid) was paid during 2011. An additional $1.2 million was paid during the first part of 2012, and there is some $800,000 that is expected to be paid subsequent to October 1, 2012, and that amount will be given to the new Purchaser. That totals $3 million more or less in incentive monies. Furthermore, Barnwell County Tax Payers have provided $450,000 per year for the years 2011, 2012 and 2013 for support of the Hospital while it was being sold. The Sales Agreement provides that the County Tax Payers pay three years in the future from the date of the Sale, or $450,000 per year for a total of $1,350,000 that we are paying the Purchaser to take the Hospital.
My estimate is at least $1 million in attorneys fees (more to be paid) and consultants which the Barnwell County Hospital and/or Barnwell County has paid to date, and there is more to be paid.
There is an additional $350,000 that was allegedly due to Stroudwater for procuring the sale with Dobbs, but of course that deal was not completed. The County still contemplates paying the $350,000 to Stroudwater. There has been at least $600,000 in new equipment purchased at the Hospital during the last 20 months which will be given for free to the new Purchaser.
Barnwell County is owed in excess of $600,000 for monies advanced to the Hospital, and they are Unsecured Creditors, which means they may be paid 10-15% of that amount.
If my math is correct, it has cost the Tax Payers for the past 2-1/2 years, plus for the next 3 years, $7,750,000 that has been spent since December 10, 2010.
While I am not at liberty to disclose the amount at this time, there was a Voluntary Mediation with Dobbs, the previous Purchaser and Barnwell County Council for some eight hours on Tuesday, January 29, 2013, which I attended but was not allowed to participate. You will recall that as early as the September 13, 2011 Third Reading Public Hearing, I then and thereafter for months objected to the inclusion of the double liquidated (unnecessary to prove) damage clause wherein the County and/or Hospital would have to pay Dobbs a great deal of money if the sale to Dobbs did not occur. After Dobbs failed to close by the June 30, 2012 Closing Date, they filed suit for some $2.2 million, including the HITECH payments that were to be paid to them in the amount of $1.4 million and part of the $1.2 million under the original Contract. It is my considered opinion that not one nickel is owed to Dobbs, but rather they owe the Barnwell County Hospital and/or Barnwell County. In any event, I learned on yesterday that matter had been settled, but cannot disclose that figure. Please understand that Dobbs will pay nothing to the County or Hospital, and the monies which will be paid to them will diminish the funds available to pay the Unsecured Creditors, many of whom are local. In other words, this is money that indirectly would be paid by the Tax Payers. One must also consider that the Hospital and/or County would be liable for unknown additional amounts that may be owed as the result of a future audit for Medicaid and Medicare funds and other items.
Although I have insisted there be an appraisal as to the value of the Hospital, so that in the event the County decided to buy it back, as it did some 25 years ago, there has not been an appraisal of the value of the land, outbuildings and hospital. It is unbelievable that anyone with good judgment would sell something without knowing the value thereof. Furthermore, there has not been an audit of the Barnwell County Hospital finances for the Fiscal Years 2010, 2011 nor 2012; and the FY is from October 1, 2009 through September 30, 2010 for that particular year.
The Dual Office Holding Lawsuit against Barnwell County Council which resulted from the Council discharging the Hospital Board because they declined to vote for Bankruptcy as they had never seen the documents relative to the need therefor. Since April 26, 2011, the Council, except for Mr. Buckmon, has served on the Hospital Board having appointed themselves as Hospital Board members. If that lawsuit is successful, the Barnwell County Council would have forfeited their Office on County Council when they assumed the second office. Consequently, the actions of the Council since April 26, 2011, would be void, including the Ordinance to declare Chapter 9 Bankruptcy and to sell (give away) the Hospital. That case is now in the SC Supreme Court and has not been scheduled for hearing in February, March or April 2013; and if not heard in the month of May, would be heard in September 2013 or later. I do not presage or guess as to what their ruling will be, but I continue to have hope.
I fervently again request the County Council to not proceed with the sale of the Hospital for several reasons. The first of which is there is no guarantee that the Hospital will not be closed or sold again by the new Purchaser and there is no guarantee that the Emergency Room will continue to be open 24/7. No one can foresee whether the Obama Healthcare Law will benefit the Citizens of Barnwell County who are not eligible for Medicaid or Medicare; and the information shared with me is that at least 30% of those seen at the Hospital are without funds to pay. We, as citizens, have a duty and obligation to care about the sick, the poor, and the elderly; and the only way we can do that is to continue to maintain the Barnwell County Hospital. It is obvious that the current County Council either does not want to be aggravated with the Hospital operation or is incapable thereof, and is determined to give away the Hospital. I am truly concerned that an industry may decline to locate in Barnwell County for lack of a Hospital and adequate medical care.
I respectfully urge the Council to deny passage of this Ordinance and not to sell this valuable asset that belongs to all of the Taxpayers of Barnwell County.
Rodney A. Peeples
cc: Pickens Williams, Jr.
Barnwell County Council
Barnwell County Hospital Board,
including Richard Myers.
On Friday, February 22, 2013, at 9 a.m. copies of this letter were hand delivered to each member of Barnwell County Council as well as to the Barnwell County Hospital Board. This was prior to the meeting for the third reading of the ordinance to sell the hospital.
At the same time the letter was given to the staff of The People-Sentinel newspaper with the request that it be published in the February 27, 2013 edition.
Save the Hospital Committee,
Dr. M. O. Khan
Rodney A. Peeples
|Barnwell 45 District||Visit|
|Barnwell City Website||Visit|
|Barnwell County Arts Council||Visit|
|Barnwell County Chamber of Commerce||Visit|
|Barnwell County Government||Visit|
|Barnwell County Library||Visit|
|Barnwell County SC Virtual Museum||Visit|
|Big 7 Association||Visit|
|Blackville Municipal Website||Visit|
|Blackville-Hilda School District 19||Visit|
|CodeRed Alert System||Visit|
|Edisto Research and Education Center||Visit|
|JDA - Jefferson Davis Academy||Visit|
|Salkehatchie Arts Center||Visit|
|South Carolina National Heritage Corridor||Visit|
|The Circle Theatre||Visit|
No blogs have been published.