Idaho AG Turns Blind Eye to BGH, POHD Conflict
The County Prosecutor and the State Attorney General’s Office (AG) lack the political courage to enforce the State Constitution and laws. They have decided to turn a blind eye to the convoluted “agreement” that was crafted by Bonner General Hospital (BGH) attorney to continue their corporate tax subsidy.
The State Legislature is no better, bending to the will of lobbyists and allowing for blatant conflicts of interest of members who sit on a taxing district as elected trustees and also sit on the board of directors of the entity that receives those tax dollars. The trustees have a fiduciary duty to the people while directors are only accountable to the business.
Last summer a whistle blower brought to the attention of the AG the fact that tax money was being given to a private hospital in violation of Idaho Statute 39-1318. In October 2018, the AG issued a letter stating that the Pend Oreille Hospital District (POHD) was indeed violating the Constitution and statutory laws.
POHD Chairman Lawrence did not disclose this letter to the Trustee and it was never discussed at the open public meetings until December 15, 2018. During that period the Chairman knowingly violated the Constitution and Idaho Code 18-5701 by transferring tax funds to a private business. Why?
Through a public records request, it was discovered that a discussion behind the scenes had been brewing. In this letter dated November 19, 2018, Attorney Stanger – the BGH attorney – describes his proposal for an agreement between POHD and BGH. It reads like a spider’s web, fashioned on the St. Luke’s hospital case but void of the primary condition of existing as a public hospital.
The POHD trustees never discussed any of this at their meetings. In fact no agreement was provided until 15 hours prior to the meeting where they nonchalantly slid it through without batting an eye, evidence that BGH, not POHD, is still driving this funding process.
There are several contradictions and grey areas in the agreement details, that are arguably by design.
BGH has decided to tie their two clinics that operate at a loss to the taxpayers – Women’s Health and Mental Health, and the brand new questionable Ear, Nose, & Throat clinic. The agreement actually states to cover losses. Isn’t that corporate subsidizing? Almost immediately, POHD has tried to work outside their new agreement by trying to fund the clinic losses from January and February … prior to the date the agreement went into effect.
Claiming this agreement mimics the St. Luke’s situation is comical. The truth is that it is completely backwards. For St. Luke’s, the public owned the hospital and continued to own it, while the private business leases from the public. The contorted lease/sub-lease arrangement orchestrated by BGH still leaves the taxpayers owning nothing, operating nothing, and with no transparency. POHD is subleasing the facilities from BGH and BGH will continue to operate these clinics, arguably in violation of Idaho Code 39-1331(h).
However, since our officials have decided to turn a blind eye, and are willing to violate the Idaho Code and Constitution and allow corporate subsidies, shouldn’t POHD (the publicly elected body) go through a bid process just like the commissioner’s office, or school district? Shouldn’t other private hospital and clinics within the district have a chance to submit proposals?
Why won’t POHD fairly considering funding other health clinics? It’s local collusion that keeps the same 6 members from the BHG board serving as trustees of the POHD. Many of these trustees have publicly admitted that their allegiance is to the hospital, not the people who elected them. Isn’t this the definition of conflict of interest, fiduciary violations, and crony capitalism? Is deceit under the guise of benevolence truly honorable?
The arrangement is a charade and nothing has changed. It’s just a shell game to keep the tax payers funding a private business, like wrapping old fish in paper – it still stinks.
One trustee position is up for election on May 21st. The incumbent does have a challenger this year. If you want to drain the Bonner swamp, you should vote for Spencer Hutchings, otherwise you are supporting corporate welfare and corruption.
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