The Swamp Around Sandpoint’s Hospital
Open meeting violations, conflicts of interests, obstruction of trustee duties, backroom deals, and using taxpayer money to subsidize a private business. No, this is not Boise. We have our own swamp surrounding our local hospital.
I will try to be as clear as possible. Bonner General Hospital (BGH) is a private enterprise. It has 10 members on the board of directors and meets privately – no one can attend or see the minutes or finances.
The Pend Oreille Hospital District (POHD) is a taxing district with seven elected trustees. The State Constitution allows hospital taxing districts for owning and operating a public hospital or public medical clinic. It must follow Idaho Code 39-1329, open meeting, and public document codes to be accountable to the tax payers.
For decades, the BGH board has been dominated by the POHD trustees. Presently 6 of the 7 POHD trustees serve on both boards. The BGH board also has an ex-POHD trustee, who was disqualified to hold this elected position because of her non-US citizenship. The double-dealing six-pack has admitted that their allegiance is to BGH, not the taxpayer. To prove it, POHD business (open to the public) was limited to transfer tax money to BGH and to raise the yearly levy rate to the maximum allowed amount.
For years the routine was for POHD to meet for approximately five minutes each month. The business was to open the meeting, accept the minutes, motion to transfer the funds, and adjourn. Then those “trustees” stayed for the private BGH meeting, and being a quorum of POHD, violated the open meeting law. They continued this practice even after being made aware of the fact. Is this a slap in the face of the citizens?
The seventh POHD trustee is shut out of all matters, denied information, and is obstructed in performing his fiduciary responsibilities to the tax payers by the six. Reluctantly, he has become a whistle blower, exposing the insider chicanery.
But wait, there’s more. The POHD budget is roughly $4million, but the amount collected in taxes only adds up to about $1.2million. How does that work? The tax money and the BGH funds are co-mingled and taxpayers cannot impose accountability on this convoluted relationship.
But wait there’s still more. Bonner County taxpayer funds were spent funding approximately 30% of the lease for a clinic in Montana! That’s correct. Bonner County property owners were funding a business in Montana for 18 months, April 2016 to November 2017.
And yes, there’s even more.
POHD didn’t even have its own bank account for funds, until March 2018.
BGH pays for the audit of POHD and the audit of BGH. Attorneys for BGH also served POHD. The secretary is the same person on both boards; same for the treasurer.
The CEO of BGH signs as the District Representative on the POHD L-2 Certification of Budget Request to Board of County Commissioners.
The icing on the cake is that for decades POHD has been violating the Idaho Constitution Article VIII Section 3, by using millions of taxpayer dollars to subsidize the hospital, a private business, which holds private meetings to discuss their operations. An October 16, 2018 letter from the Office of the Attorney General clearly states this violation, yet they continued to transfer the funds for months afterward.
The POHD tax contribution is about 2% of the hospital’s budget. Why are they fighting so hard for these “crumbs”?
If this isn’t a swamp, I don’t know what is.
It is very apparent that those in power wanted this to be kept quiet and that is why they hand picked their replacements. There are blatant ethical violations, as well as conflicts of interest that exist with the six-pack that sits on both boards. One of these appointees is a doctor who gets patient referrals from the hospital. Another appointee is the superintendent of the school district who wants to boost property taxes with an increase of 49% in the school levy.
So as the situation currently stands – the majority 6-pack still reigns on both boards and is deciding how to use duct tape and lip stick to restructure the relationship in order to keep the money flowing to BGH. How do you think that will work out?
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