Lawsuits may spur county to fight

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By Alice Du Pont

   Now that the hospital is up and running Craig McMillan, chairman of the Gadsden Hospital Board, Inc. asked for direction and the future role of the GHI as a board. Following a joint meeting Feb. 22, between the Board of County Commissioners and GHI, one of the issues discussed was whether GHI would continue functioning as a unit to oversee items relating to the operation of the GMH campus of Capital Regional Medical Center.
    McMillan said the GHI Board would be willing to continue and provide the BoCC with a written quarterly report, use the remaining $13,000 for advertising or return it to the BoCC, become a leasing agent for some of the space unused at the hospital and act as liaison with CRMC.
    The BoCC thanked McMillan and the GHI board for all of their hard work and approved the proposal he presented.
    Also, a subject for discussion was the Indigent Discretionary Tax excess funds from 2009 and fiscal year 2010. The excess funds came from the beginning of the indigent tax until the hospital took over in March of 2010. The excess funds, $399,998, are restricted and can be used only in accordance with the indigent health care ordinance.
    The ordinance allows the tax to be used only to pay debt service and to provide health care services for qualified residents and to fund work for reopening the hospital.
    • In other matters, Commission Chairman Sherrie Taylor said lawsuits are costing the taxpayers money. "In order to stop this is that we have to fight back. Everyone has a right to file a lawsuit but I'm talking about frivolous lawsuits. These things will continue until we put some fight in the game," she said.
    However, if the county fights the lawsuits and is not victorious it could end up paying for the suits and legal fees of the person(s) bring the suit. On the other hand, if the county prevails, the individual bringing the lawsuit could be required to pay the county's legal fees and could face a suit from the county.
    The BoCC, Taylor said, has done nothing wrong and suggested the county fight the lawsuits. Commissioner Gene Morgan agreed with Taylor.
    "I believe certain individuals have entered into a conspiracy to defraud the citizens of this county," Commissioner Doug Croley said.
    Deborah Minnis, county attorney, said the number of lawsuits was not excessive but it is unusual for them to be filed in succession.
    Croley said the reorganizational plan was voted on by the commission on Jan. 27, 2009 and the interim county administrator chose not to implement the plan at that time but opted wait for the permanent administrator to be hired. He said the entire board was sorry that some people had to lose their jobs but the same scenario was occurring nationwide.
    "If you don't want lawsuits, you shouldn't have done what you did. You can't get upset with lawsuits after you do things. If you do what it says in the handbook," said Commissioner Brenda Holt. "you wouldn't have any problems."
    She suggested that the citizens who are upset be contacted and an attempt made to settle their problems.
    • Marlon Hunter, director of the Gadsden County Health Department, asked for permission to relocate part of his operation into the space currently housing North Florida Medical Center. He said the health department has outgrown its space and with the addition of its dental unit and partnerships with the University of Florida, Florida A&M University, Florida State University and Tallahassee Community College and students rotating through, space is at a premium.
    North Florida Medical Centers is building a new facility on Strong Road but Hunter gave no prospective moving date. The BoCC approved Hunter's request.