Since this post was published Slabbed was contacted by Singing River Hospital Spokesman Richard Lucas. This snippet tells the tale:
Our laundry contract, as it has been for many years, is with Crown Health Care Laundry Services out of Pensacola, Florida. We do not have nor have we ever had a contract with Mississippi Laundry Services.
I appreciate the fact that Mr. Lucas contacted Slabbed with that clarification. The other entities are now screaming “follow-up” and I will be doing just that to see if we can gain additional clarity. That will be in part two. ~ Doug
By now anyone with any sort of remote connection to the Jackson County political establishment has heard the rumors of sweetheart deals between the Singing River Health System and certain insiders. Those rumors have been alluded to several different places and that makes this post a twofer as Slabbed will explore these rumors, why people are talking (beyond the obvious in the implosion of the employee pension fund due to management willfully not funding it) and plus that twofer in how this internet thingy works.
I begin with the DMR = SRHS meme, which first surfaced here in the local feedback loop with the feedback loop confirmed here. The gang at Singing River Hospital are no doubt feeling a bit embattled and rightfully so. Pundits, bloggers and muckrakers are a competitive group and there was no way I was gonna let Wayne Weidie have all the fun no sir. Two days ago I sent the following email (partially redacted for dramatic effect) to Hospital Spokesman Richard Lucas:
I am the publisher of the Slabbed New media website found at www.slabbed.org. I have been following and have covered certain aspects of the financial problems being experienced by the Singing River Hospital System. Along those lines several of my readers have sent me tips regarding alleged insider sweetheart contracts between the Hospital, Hospital <redacted> , and Mr. <redacted> son. Additionally one of the companies is allegedly also owned by Scott Walker, who is now in Federal Prison.
While these contracts may be shielded by the exemption enjoyed by the Hospital in the Mississippi Public Records statute I am contacting you to confirm or deny the existence of these related party transactions. If the answer is none of your business under the Mississippi public records law, that is fine too. I simply want to give you guys a chance to respond in advance of my upcoming publication on this topic and the rumors swirling around SRHS.
Thank you for any information you can provide me regarding these companies and their dealings with SRHS.
As I write this my email to Mr. Lucas has not garnered a reply but the next morning this appeared in the Mississippi Press:
Jackson County supervisors told Singing River Health System retirees during a special press conference this morning that no stone would be unturned in the quest for the reasons for SRHS’ pension and other financial troubles.
Board of Supervisors President Troy Ross noted that will include looking into all contracts awarded by the hospital system.
The Feedback loop of rumors to news cycle was complete at that point but it was further amplified this morning:
SRHS brings in crisis management firm ~ Anita Lee
Biloxi Blues has spot on analysis but before we get to that I gotta mention that I communicated with one source and can’t use the information I received even though it is of the smoking gun variety when it comes to the rumors and their veracity. It was actually Anita Lee who in reference to reporting on a scandal once told me something along the lines that even when there is a full cover up often the dirty laundry will still often bubble up. I say this because the muck is bubbling up folks and it is a matter of time before certain things come out thus bringing in that crisis management firm at this point makes sense. Now for that sage analysis from the Bluesman:
I feel certain Richard Lucas ,the in house PR man, is starting to feel the heat of speaking for others he does not quite believe in. I have spent a lifetime creating, reshaping ,improving or denigrating the images of clients and their adversaries. I would have given them some free advice if asked and this advice would have started with 1) Tell the truth no matter what 2) Do not evade employee questions with “Sorry the lawsuits do not allow us to answer” 3) Never let an attorney speak for the system in public except in the court room. 4) Hire local or instate people to do your crisis management. 5) Ask the board of trustees to not speak in public,they are just terrible and should be removed or step down. I bet the most recent move creates more problems than solutions for SRHS. Sure appears the hospital’s law firm has now taken charge of the decision making
Now we need to explore the companies rumored to have contracts with the Hospital and why people are talking about it. I have communicated with several different sources, each of which has detailed knowledge of the Jackson County political landscape in one way shape or fashion and the picture that emerges is that of a somewhat ossified Board of Trustees at the Hospital that keep their business dealings within a relatively small group. This news story from 2012 illustrates:
Construction of Hilton Garden Inn to begin in Pascagoula ~ April Havens
The caption of the photo accompanying the story tells it:
Roy Williams, co-owner of the Hilton Garden Inn planned for U.S. 90 in Pascagoula, speaks during a groundbreaking Oct. 22, 2012. Co-owner Morris Strickland, second from left, Gentry Williams and Mayor Robbie Maxwell also participated in the event.
Morris Strickland? Lets visit the WLOX story and the Feedback loop confirmed that I linked above:
“We’re not even close to being a DMR. We’re not a DMR.” Those were the words of Singing River Health System Board of Trustees member Morris Strickland.
Roy Williams is the Board Attorney for the Singing River Health System. Gentry Williams mentioned in April’s story above is Roy’s son. I want to be clear there is absolutely nothing wrong with the guys redeveloping the old La Font Inn parcel but it illustrates my point about the close knit business group.
With the players set we should head immediately to the Secretary of State website. This is what I found:
Looking at these documents some mention SRHS Board attorney Roy Williams by name. All use an email address associated with his law firm but there is more because at least one of these companies provides services to Forrest General Hospital:
South Mississippi is such a small world in so many respects, Jackson County
even more so thus it is not unexpected to see Scott Walker’s name associated with one of these companies as this old Sun Herald article illustrates: Please see update at the top of this post.
Walker was returning from a business trip to Tampa, Fla., with developer Gentry Williams and D’Iberville’s Al Gombos. They were learning how to set up a company to handle laundry for health-care companies and hospitals on the Coast.
Does any of the above mean there are or were sweetheart deals for Hospital insiders? No but these connections have people talking. Due to Mississippi’s toothless public records law county owned Hospitals get to conduct their business in the shadows, out of the public eye. Such a setup can not only foster related party transactions, it pretty much insures that when disaster strikes the public will think the worst and that is exactly what is happening with Singing River Hospital.
Something tells me Slabbed will be hearing and having more on this topic. Stay tuned.