I am one of three Catoosa County-appointed representatives to the Hospital Authority of Walker, Dade, and Catoosa Counties.
I do not understand this action by the Catoosa County Board of Commissioners, asking to spend more tax dollars on a grand jury investigation.
Hutcheson was a Tri-County Authority hospital, but 99 percent of its property, most of its employees, most vendors (such as insurance contracts), and most of its management and one-third of the board leadership have been Catoosa residents over the past 60 years.
The Catoosa commission's action makes no sense unless they want to go after Erlanger for answers it never provided.
The Catoosa commissioners commented that they wanted to know where the $20 million went that Catoosa tax dollars helped pay back.
Erlanger's $20 million disappeared when Erlanger was managing the hospital, so if that is the Catoosa goal, then this vote makes some sense. Otherwise, it makes no sense that Catoosa is asking for local tax dollars to be spent to investigate matters that have already been rigorously evaluated for the past three years by federal courts, judges and trustees.
But it also made no sense when Catoosa consistently supported Erlanger's federal court efforts to close down Hutcheson.
It made no sense when Catoosa filed a suit in Catoosa County Court against not only its own appointed hospital board members but the entire Authority, knowing they were demanding information only the bankruptcy court could provide, causing great harm to the hospital's federal court efforts, and causing Hutcheson to have to divert precious resources to defend that frivolous lawsuit.
What makes the least sense is that Catoosa is not concentrating on helping Walker County in its efforts to appeal the Erlanger lawsuit where they are suing to recover the money they themselves wasted.
I can't fathom how the court gave Erlanger a judgment, but it did and Catoosa settled its half for $6.23 million tax dollars even before the judgment was rendered, instead of helping Walker litigate the issues.
If Walker wins its appeal within the next nine months, not only does Walker County not have to pay Erlanger one dime of its $8.7 million on behalf of Hutcheson, Erlanger would have to pay back the $6.23 million tax dollars Catoosa voluntarily paid Erlanger. Instead of helping themselves by helping Walker County, Catoosa takes this action that could divert attention and resources away from the Walker County appeal effort, which Walker County is confident it will win.
Is this a genuine effort to go after Erlanger to account for the money it wasted while managing Hutcheson? Or is this nothing more than retribution exacted for a recently failed political campaign which is now being directed at known or presumed political enemies prior to the changing of the guard on 12/31/16? I believe many in Catoosa County feel that these are the only two possible conclusions that make any sense.
Steve Cooper, vice chairman, Hospital Authority of Walker, Dade, and Catoosa Counties