Sometime back when the SRHS pension plan fiasco first entered the news cycle, the gang at the Hospital had an early set of talking points that included yammering about how the plan was a public sector plan and that ERISA did not apply (Slabbed debunked those talking points here). Today of course the pension plan litigation is back in state court exactly where SRHS originally said it belonged in those early statements. Except now they do not like the Chancellor assigned to the case.
Quietly and behind the scenes Slabbed has been getting some sage legal analysis from the local legal community. As is often the case I can’t disclose any of what has been shared but what I can do is point to what we already know and maybe gain a few clues about the forces at play. In short this is not about the Health System as much as it is about the folks that control it and the scrappy group of retirees that aren’t going down without a fight. We start with the latest:
The Sun Herald linked a copy of the recusal opposition from retiree Cynthia Almond to accompany the story and it is a must download and read. Retiree lawyers Harvey Barton and Earl Denham turn the Hospital recusal motion on its head, pointing out the glaring legal conflicts that exist between SRHS and its law firm, especially at the time the acts that are the subject of the litigation were perpetrated.
We covered all this, the rumored insider transactions involving then Board Attorney Roy Williams, SRHS and companies owned in part by Mr. Williams’ sons. One of those related party transactions is now incredibly the subject of litigation between SRHS and Team Williams. Aside from that lawsuit however, SRHS has faithfully stood by their law firm’s side ostensibly even accepting Mr. Williams’ son as their new Board attorney, even after Slabbed placed the proverbial cherry on top with new potential conflicts.
By their actions SRHS has demonstrated a preference for keeping a law firm with major conflict questions involved in the pension litigation and using that firm’s support of Judge Harris’ opponent in last year’s election as a lever to force Harris off the case. The heart of the Harris recusal motion is predicated on that fact. Remove Dogan & Wilkerson from the equation and the Harris recusal motion they filed goes up in smoke. Simply put, the powers running SRHS must fear Judge Neil Harris more than they do their own legal conflicts. The implications of that fact are stunning and foretell a tale of major muck still being hidden.
Why would SRHS fear Judge Harris? The local legal community seems to respect Harris from what I can discern. In fact Harris reminds me of a more fired up version of Chancellor Schloegel, the jurist in Harrison County that refused to play along with Stacey Pickering in the State Auditor – DMR cover-up portion of that scandal.
Simply put a transaction like the Cedar Point Land Swindle funded by the Jackson County taxpayers would not pass muster with a Judge that calls their cases straight, even when that means busting the Jackson County Board of Supervisors or the State Auditor’s chops. By extension this must be what management calling the shots at SRHS fears the most, because unlike with Cedar Point all those years ago, there is no inside fix to bale the perpetrators out. The recusal motion bears that fact out.
As for those long rumored additional insider transactions alluded to in the retiree’s opposition brief, rest assured Slabbed will be having more on that topic.