Letter to the editor

To the Citizens of Walker County:

It’s been an honor to represent you in the challenges you face with Erlanger. Over the past few days, two Walker County politicians questioned why our firm and another were hired to handle issues involving Hutcheson, including the $10 million lawsuit, bankruptcy, and issues arising out of Erlanger’s $36 million lawsuit against Hutcheson and the Hospital Authority. Because of this and an inaccurate story that ran in the Times Free Press, I wanted to take this time to set the record straight.

Times Free Press reporter Tyler Jett made an Open Records Request (ORR) to Walker County regarding our fees. Because the request was not correctly filed, Walker County did not have to respond; however, we published the fees paid over the last two years thanks to the onslaught of Erlanger lawsuits. That amount was less than $73,000.

That same day, the reporter was asked and confirmed that he made a similar ORR to Erlanger. He provided a copy of a communication from Erlanger spokeswoman Pat Charles. Ms. Charles shared that Erlanger spent $44,141 on the intergovernmental agreement litigation. She also noted that Jett did not need to send an ORR for information. This shows two things: Erlanger didn’t provide information covering the fees for total legal representation, they only showed it for a few weeks of addressing the intergovernmental agreement. Second, it shows that while the reporter said an ORR was sent for the information, it wasn’t. Walker County, you, were held to a different standard.

The next day, the same reporter sent several huge ORRs to Walker County, which if answered, would have shut down the County while employees spent all of their time fulfilling the request. Billy Joyner of our firm, made an ORR request to Erlanger. Our request included all audio, video, and written documentation for all attorney’s fees on all of the matters being litigated. Erlanger’s response? Sending the same information from a few weeks of legal representation during the intergovernmental agreement.

The bottom line is that we provided full disclosure in the amounts our firm has been paid while Erlanger is attempting to hide from the taxpayers the real expense of legal representation.

Thanks to Erlanger, we’ve sent and received approximately 1,976 emails, including attachments, pleadings and other documents. We’ve reviewed over 940 pleadings and exhibits and have filed numerous motions to protect your interests. It’s not a good use of taxpayer dollars; however, Erlanger leaves you with no option. You have to have legal representation to address the challenges you face.

We are asking members of the press to level the playing field. What is requested of one side, should automatically be requested of the other. We’ve provided our fees from covering every issue in this matter. We challenge the media to demand Erlanger to do the same.

Our firm is proud to serve the citizens of Walker County. We’ll continue to use our best efforts in providing a defense and appropriate legal arguments in this situation. We hope this letter puts perspective on why the County is moving forward to protect its assets and its citizens as permitted by Georgia state law.