Strickland Defends Pension Plan Investments

talk to chuckFormer SRHS Trustee Morris Strickland is set to be deposed in the pension plan litigation tomorrow at 9 a.m.

Last week saw Strickland fire off a letter to editor of The Sun Herald defending the investments of the SRHS Retirement Committee.  The Sun Herald is not alone in alleging that the committe made  “poor and risky investments.” Those words originally came from Billy Guice.

Stickland points to the committee’s track record showing “annualized returns: one year — 9.9% ; three years — 13.9%; five years — 10.7% ; 10 years — 7.5 %.”

As a comparison we look at a broad market fund return and the S&P 500. Continue reading

Who Owns the OS Imaging Center?

In the fall of 2006 a group of local doctors and Singing River Health System executives were planning on new real estate deal to house the Ocean Springs Imaging Center.

Instead of SRHS purchasing the land and constructing the building, they decided to go another route. On October 4, 2006, a group of doctors and investors led by Drs. John Bailey and Bradley Sams formed Horn Island Realty, LLC.  Horn Island was set up with the sole purpose to develop the imaging center property.

Horn Island bought the land in August of 2007 from D & W Enterprises, LLC which was controlled by Danny and John Jalanivich. Danny Jalanivich was hired by John McKay’s 2011 re-election campaign and is now the Ocean Springs harbormaster.

Horn Island borrowed $8 million from the Mississippi Development Bank, which issued bonds to raise money for the building. Horn Island has 20 years to repay the money. In turn, Singing River signed a 20 year lease with Horn Island.

Is this a good deal for Singing River? Without seeing the lease agreement it is hard to say. Generally a purchase will be cheaper than a long term lease. Singing River is on the hook for maintenance, insurance, rent, and an additional layer of profit on top the rent.

The possible benefit for Singing River is that it allowed them to keep building with less scrutiny. If Singing River wanted to build this facility, the bond issue would have to be approved by the Jackson County Board of Supervisors. The additional debt would also go on SRHS’ balance sheet. This way, SRHS got their building without having to ask permission from anyone and without it affecting their future borrowing.

 

McKay Buys Campaign Supplies from KAFB Commissary

In the course of any campaign, it is necessary to buy supplies and food for fundraisers and other events. John McKay’s 2011 campaign was no different, except that he took his campaign shopping to the tax free Keesler Air Force Base Commissary. The DOD established and maintains commissaries for the subsistence needs of military members and their families. The goods are sold at cost and tax free to service members and dependents.  According to DOD regulations:

Individuals […] will not sell or give away commissary purchases to individuals, organizations, or activities not entitled to commissary privileges

 

Do political campaigns fall under activities not entitled to commissary privileges?

McKay KAFB

 

commissary purchase restrictions

Reviewing Supervisors’ Statements of Economic Interest

What is a Statement of Economic Interest? The Mississippi Ethics Commission explains:

The Statement of Economic Interest is a financial disclosure form filed annually by certain elected and appointed officials in state and local government. It is intended to disclose the sources of a public servant’s income so that members of the public know where a public servant’s personal financial interests lie. It does not disclose the amount of income a public servant receives. The Statement of Economic Interest promotes compliance with the Ethics in Government Law disclosing potential conflicts of interest. All information disclosed is for the previous calendar year.

 

SRHS Watch has reviewed the statements for the current Board of Supervisors since 2009. Our findings are listed below. Continue reading

AG’s Opinion on Laundry Facility Tax Exemptions

Jessica M. Dupont, Esq.
Office of the Attorney General
September 10, 2014

2014 WL 5350515 (Miss.A.G.)
Office of the Attorney General

State of Mississippi
Opinion No. 201400350
September 10, 2014

Re: Applicability of Ad Valorem Tax Exemption Under Section 27-31-101

 

Jessica M. Dupont, Esq.
Special Counsel
Jackson County Board of Supervisors
Post Office Box 998
Pascagoula, MS 395680998

Dear Ms Dupont:

Attorney General Jim Hood has received your request for an official opinion and assigned it to me for research and response.

Facts and Issues Presented

Your letter states that the Jackson County Board of Supervisors (“Board”) is considering granting an ad valorem tax exemption to a commercial laundry facility. Your letter asks, assuming that the Board makes certain factual findings delineated therein, is the Board within its legal authority to consider the commercial laundry facility a processing facility within the meaning of “processors” as used in Miss. Code Ann. Section 27-31-101(3)(b). Continue reading

SRHS Trustee Allen Cronier Resigns

Singing River Health System Trustee Allen Cronier has announced his resignation due to health issues.

Jackson County District 1 Supervisor Barry Cumbest will have to name a replacement within 90 days to fill the remainder of Cronier’s term which expires in January 2019.

We wish Mr. Cronier the best of luck and health.

SRHS Board of Trustee member resigns, cites health issues” Karen Nelson, The Sun Herald, July 8, 2015

Who Donates to Supervisors’ Campaigns?

As the election approaches be mindful that special interests infused the current crop of supervisors with campaign donations. Take a look at which engineering, construction, and other firms get awarded county contracts and look at the amount they spend on donations to the Board of Supervisors.  Look at our recent detailing of Paula Yancey’s campaign contributors and ask yourself why contractors and engineers would spend so much money to influence a non-partisan judicial race?

While the below video is regarding the U.S. Senate, the procedure is the same in all forms of government. Might the campaign contributions of hospital administrators past and present have an effect? What about the donations of past and present hospital trustees? Ask yourself why certain large or politically connected corporations get tax breaks, but your local hairdresser or mechanic does not. You can find those answers in the campaign finance reports on file at the Jackson County Circuit Clerk’s office.

Commentary from Cisco Aguilar

Editor’s Note: Retiree Cisco Aguilar has been a thoughtful and reasoned observer and critic of the Singing River Health System pension debacle. Mr. Aguilar shares his thoughts on the most recent developments between SRHS and the Jackson County Board of Supervisors.

During the last meeting Mr. McKay, as well as two current hospital employees, showered high praise on Mr. Holland and the “new” Administration at the helm of Singing River Health System.  We must now respectfully but wholeheartedly disagree with their appraisal.

Our problem with the current leadership is that it is following in the footsteps of the old one, using the same methods that produced the colossal fiasco the System is now in. In fact, most of the top leaders have not changed at all, as six out of the seven voting trustees are the same ones who actually presided over the entire debacle.

After all, it was Kevin Holland who on March 31, 2014[i] sought to lull us into complacency claiming that the pension plan was safe and sound on the heels of an incredible $88 million “accounting adjustment” announcement.[ii]

It was also Mr. Holland who, with the support from other current Administration members[iii] and with the approval of the Board of Trustees, attempted on November 29, 2014 to eliminate the burdensome pension plan overnight, writing off SRHS obligations to the pension participants, as well as their future livelihood guarantees, with the stroke of a pen and no true hint of remorse.[iv]

Seven months later, secrecy and deception continues to reign sovereign at SRHS, as evidenced by the struggle everyone is enduring to shine light on what actually happened to bring about this disaster.[v]

Even their latest attempt to dispose of the pension issue is shrouded in secrecy and reserves the right to pull back the promised contributions if things don’t go well for the System, while bullying us with the ever present threat of impending bankruptcy.[vi]

We should not trust the current leadership any better than we would a thief, because as a whole they have never had our interest at heart. Some within the current SRHS leadership are directly responsible for the sorry state of our pension fund today as they were there all along. Others are new leaders indeed, but unfortunately they continue to support the entrenched culture of arrogance, secrecy and deception that took us all to this point.

Well, as the saying goes, fooled once, shame on them, fooled twice, shame on us.

Current employees, vested ex-employees and retirees are all in the same boat and all have the same fundamental choice. We can buy the goods offered by the sales team at SRHS without even a hint of bargaining or we can press on for a “best solution” independently corroborated and that is truly fair to everyone involved.[vii]

In the absence of sufficient information to assess what this “best solution” may actually be, we resolutely choose to demand the 100% restoration of the owed benefits until and unless SRHS demonstrates without a shadow of a doubt and to our full satisfaction that it cannot actually support it, not only now, but over the lifespan of the plan leftovers.[viii]

In the meanwhile we shall continue to fight for our undeniable rights using whatever means are available to us, including legal action, dissemination of pertinent information, critical commentary, interviews with the Press outlets and regularly scheduled protests in front of both hospitals, in order to keep pressure on all who can, should or do have a role to play in the resolution of this drama.

Cisco Aguilar

 


[i] As soon as Mr. Holland took charge as CEO, in an e-mail to all SRHS employees. This is the same strategy pursued consistently since 2009, if not even earlier, by the SRHS Administration.

[ii] This announcement totally reversed the System’s financial picture despite Mr. Holland’s deceptively upbeat explanations at that time.

[iii] Lee Bond, Craig Summerlin, Kerry Caldarelli, Celeste Oglesby and Larry Shoemaker.

[iv] Without the intervention of Earl Denham and Harvey Barton and the issue of their first Temporary Restraining Order on December 5, 2014, the Administration would already have killed the pension plan which they themselves helped to starve year after year without regard for the secured future they were selling us and at the same time stealing from us.

 

Contrary to Mr. McKay’s accounting, our checks were already secured by the original injunction during the ten critical days before the Memorandum of Agreement between the Supervisors and the SRHS leadership was signed on December 15, 2014. Subsequent TROs maintained the status quo including our monthly checks regardless of the MOA until Judge Guirola issued a stay order based on the MOA a month later.

 

Only after this stay order expired on March 15, 2015, more than three months after the termination attempt was stopped, did the MOA become instrumental in guaranteeing that our checks would continue. This lapse on judicial protection was recently ended by Judge Hilburn’s agreed stay order of May 13, 2015 currently in effect.

[v] From the Board of Supervisors, through Billy Guice’s protracted investigation, to the many plaintiffs, through their consistently frustrated legal discovery efforts.

[vi] We, however, would be taking a very substantial hit for life even in the case that the future of the hospitals brightens through the years as hoped for and expected.

[vii] Just the results of secretly conducted investigations or grandiose announcements of what can or cannot be accomplished by SRHS according to SRHS itself and supported only by secret data will not do the trick.

[viii] Including whatever appropriate support Jackson County, as the owner of the System, can provide through a truly responsible and decisive intervention by the Board of Supervisors.

Retirees Get Fleeced, SRHS Gets Leased, JCBOS Master Plan?

John McKay has been using the analogy of a landlord and tenant to describe the relationship between the Jackson County Board of Supervisors and Singing River Health System. He has used this in campaign materials, on Facebook, and in an interview with WXXV. That choice of wording is unique, sending up a red flag at SRHS Watch. Owners of community hospitals are authorized to lease a hospital to an outside organization under state law. This has happened numerous times with community hospital failures across Mississippi.

McKay posted on Facebook:

McKay Facebook Comments on SRHS

McKay states “MS CODE 41-13-15 explains in detail.” Here McKay shows his hand. 41-13-15 does not deal with approving trustees, approving budgets, or approving borrowing. That section deals entirely with how owners of community hospitals may own, transfer, lease, or otherwise disposition their interest in the hospital and its property.  Here are those details: Continue reading

SRHS Budget Must Be Approved by JCBOS

District 5 Supervisor John McKay gave an interview campaign ad to WXXV-TV yesterday. He lists as one of the few responsibilities of the Jackson County Board of Supervisors is to “receive a budget.”

Pay close attention to the wording used. “Receive a budget” is but one part of the responsibility. MS CODE 41-13-47 actually states emphasis added:

Such [proposed] budget, as submitted or amended, shall be approved by the said owner […] which approval shall be evidenced by a proper order recorded upon the minutes of each such owner.

 

McKay doesn’t mention the fact that the JCBOS had the additional responsibility to approve or deny the budget. That would point JCBOS’ failure to approve, and SRHS’ failure to secure such approval for a budget for several years.

Is SRHS currently operating without a budget approved by the Board of Supervisors? If so, how long has this been the case? What are the consequences of SRHS operating without an approved budget? What remedies do the JCBOS or the state have to enforce compliance with the law?

If, as McKay says, SRHS didn’t know the law and the JCBOS didn’t know the law, why do they continue to rely upon the same attorneys? Paula Yancey is still representing the BOS; nepotism has seen Brett Williams take over for his recently retired father at SRHS.  Do they trust these attorneys to keep them in compliance with straightforward state statutes?