Erlanger Health System filed a petition in federal court seeking to raise property taxes on the citizens of Walker County, in a reckless and misguided attempt to receive immediate payment for a bad business deal.

Despite being $70 million in debt and operating with negative cash flow, Erlanger believes Walker County has the funds currently available in its bank account today to pay an $8.7 million judgment. Erlanger also believes Sole Commissioner Shannon Whitfield has the ability to borrow funds without limitation to satisfy the judgment, which is illegal unless voted on by the citizens of Walker County.

The judgment stems from a 2011 loan to keep Hutcheson Medical Center open, which former Commissioner Bebe Heiskell pledged taxpayer dollars to cover.

"Erlanger's petition is filled with several inaccurate statements which border on perjury, in an attempt to misrepresent Walker County's efforts to communicate its present financial state and intention to make payments on the judgment against it," said Commissioner Whitfield.

"Despite holding multiple meetings with Kevin Spiegel, Erlanger's President and CEO, and enacting a new fee on our citizens to generate funds over the course of three years to pay Erlanger back, the country's seventh largest public hospital falsely attests that we have 'ignored' them and 'refused to pay any portion of the judgment.' In reality, Erlanger has turned a deaf ear to pleas for compassion, as our citizens, who are also Erlanger's patients, had no say in this loan and are physically sick when they learn how much is owed."

Commissioner Whitfield challenged Erlanger to clarify any misinformation coming from his office on this issue. "I have said we owe the money. I have said Erlanger wants paid in full immediately. I have publicly enacted a fee to start redistributing the hard earned money of our citizens to the seventh largest hospital in the country. I have let my citizens know about Erlanger's threats to raise their property taxes seven mills to repay them for a bad business deal with an insolvent hospital and a broke county. Now, with this latest court filing, Erlanger has shown its true colors," said Whitfield.