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MO Attorney General’s Office Weighs In on Sunshine Law Violations
By Echo Menges
NEMOnews Media Group
A lot has happened over the last month concerning the hospital board.
The Scotland County Hospital District Board of Directors hosted three meetings in September. A special closed session meeting was held on September 19. The regularly scheduled public meeting was held last week on Tuesday, September 27, which included a closed session. Another special meeting was held on Friday morning, September 30, including open and closed sessions.
During the regular session just last Tuesday, three board members resigned mid-meeting, following public comments, swearing in a new member, and giving public statements ahead of the resignations, and ahead of the business portions of the meeting.
Their departures shifted the ability of the board to properly function, and they laid out the details of their feelings and situations as they saw them liberally to the public – drawing a clear line between themselves and the remaining members of the original board.
Missouri Attorney General’s Office Weighs In
The complexity of the movements of the board has only increased, which has come on the heels of a warning from the Missouri Attorney General’s Office who made contact with the board just one week prior to make several demands. Those demands were issued via a letter through the most recently hired law firm in the string of several.
The AG’s office has demanded the board follow the Missouri Sunshine Law after receiving several violation complaints.
The AG’s office has also warned they are reviewing the board’s actions taken on August 15, which includes a review of board actions taken since, and whether they were performed in accordance with the law.
If the law is not followed, stringent and costly consequences will follow, the letter warns.
This week, the Memphis Democrat received many more public documents from the SCH CEO Meagan Weber including financial reports, meeting minutes, and salary information for hospital administrators and other staff.
The utter size and scope of the supporting documents is too large to print in this newspaper. The letter to the hospital board from the AG’s office, and the recently released public documents will be uploaded to the newspaper’s website for public inspection as soon as it is reasonably possible.
Public Meeting on Sept. 28 Public Comment
Two people were allowed to speak during the public comment portion of the meeting. The first commenter simply asked where she could find advanced notification of board meetings. She was told meeting agendas were posted on the hospital website.
The second public commenter, David Carlton of Rutledge, warned the board may not be covered by their errors and omissions insurance, and asked what the hospital is doing to retain staff.
Swearing-In of New Member
Following the public comment portion of the meeting, Aarron Holt was officially sworn-in to office to replace recently resigned member Nic Hatfield. Hatfield resigned at the end of the last public meeting on August 30 citing moving out of District 6 as the reason for resigning.
Holt was recommended by Hatfield and took the oath of office, which was conducted by hospital board chairperson Lori Fulk.
Before administering the oath, Fulk thanked Hatfield for his service to the board.
The oath itself consisted of the same oath all publicly elected state officers swear to do – to faithfully uphold the Constitution of the United States and the laws of the State of Missouri.
“Let me thank you Aarron for your willingness to serve,” SCH District Board Chairperson Lori Folk said after administering the oath via a video zoom connection during the meeting.
Three Executive Board Members Make Public Statements
Executive board members Joe Doubet, secretary, Joni Lloyd, vice-chairperson, and Bob Neese, treasurer, gave statements before resigning from the board.
Doubet began with his comments relaying his disdain for the actions of the board beginning on August 15.
“I filed a complaint with (the) Missouri Attorney General’s Office. Currently, I’m being blocked by the board’s new lawyer from privately interviewing with them. If there’s nothing to hide, what’s the concern and why is the lawyer requiring his presence? And, at this point, I’m having a hard time serving on a board that wants to sweep away any illegal actions taken on the night of August fifteenth,” said Joe Doubet.
Doubet went on to ask newly hired CEO Meagan Weber a battery of questions.
“Did you allow Achim Hoyal access to hospital financials prior to him being hired, without board knowledge or approval? You have stated that you did not offer Achim Hoyal a contract. Do you stand by that statement?” Doubet asked Weber.
“Yes,” replied hospital CEO Meagan Weber.
“If so, why did you announce Achim Hoyal as CFO to the hospital employees without board knowledge or approval?” Doubet asked Weber.
“Because I was understanding that I could hire employees for this hospital as a CEO,” replied Weber.
“Did you fire the Quincy law firm without board knowledge or approval after their recommendation not to hire Achim Hoyal?” Doubet asked Weber.
“Contracts are executive discussion, Joe,” Lori Fulk interjected loudly over the sound system.
Lloyd began her statement following Doubet’s statement.
During her public statement, she challenged rumors allegedly told to her and another board member, or other board members, by Fulk.
“On August fifteenth, an illegal meeting was called at Lori Fulk’s house,” said Joni Lloyd before being interrupted by Fulk.
“Okay I’m going to stop this right here,” said Fulk via the sound system.
Lloyd attempted to keep reading her statement saying, “Chairman Fulk called me on the phone that evening…”
“Wait. Wait. Wait. Wait,” said Fulk. “Wait. Wait. all of these things have been gone through in multiple letters to the paper.”
“Not everything,” said Lloyd.
“I do not believe that this is an appropriate thing to do for the meeting that have already been done multiple times. In fact, at the last meeting that we had. We have Hospital business to do and I think that’s what we are here for,” said Fulk.
“I would like to hear what you have to say,” said someone in attendance from the audience area.
“I believe the public has a right to know what has gone on,” said Lloyd before a few people applauded.
“Kill your mic, Lori,” Bob Neese interjected.
“You also have other board members who are not being given an opportunity to state the other point of view – just this one – and we have been told not to at this point but we are rehashing this one over and over and you have stated that very thoroughly in the paper. Do we need to keep interrupting the business of the board to state it again?” said Fulk.
“I believe we do. You allowed Joe Doubet to speak. You’ve allowed hospital employees to speak,” said Lloyd.
During the back-and-forth between Fulk and Lloyd, David Carlton interjected from his seat in the audience area.
“Our trust resides in this board to conduct the business of the hospital, and that trust has been shaken severely, and I think it is important in the interest of transparency and rebuilding trust and confidence within the community for the community to be able to hear,” said David Carlton.
“We will allow the statement read but you also have to realize that there is another opinion that we cannot speak to,” said Fulk.
“That evening a vast conspiracy was laid out. Lori Fulk told those present that our auditing firm BKD could no longer be trusted, that they were likely involved with this conspiracy. Lori, that was false. Lori also told those present that Lashly Baer, the attorneys for the hospital for over 20 years, could no longer be trusted, and that they too were likely involved in this conspiracy. Lori, that was false. Lori told those present that Bob Neese and Joe Doubet were not invited to the Monday night illegal meeting for their protection. Later, I was told the real reason Joe and Bob were not invited to the illegal meeting was that they were believed to be involved in the pharmacy/foundation conspiracy, and all of that was false. To discredit Bob Neese, Lori told board members that Bob had purchased the land across from the hospital for a-hundred-thousand dollars and then he turned around and sold it to the hospital for two-hundred-thousand dollars. Lori, that was false,” said Lloyd.
“Lori told board members that the foundation paid State Senator Cindy O’Laughlin fifty-thousand dollars as a campaign contribution. That was false,” said Lloyd.
“Two days after Dr. Randy Tober was walked out, Lori told Joe Doubet and me in the hospital parking lot, ‘I have been working for six years to get rid of that man’ meaning Dr. Tober,” said Lloyd.
“This conspiracy, which included doctors, lawyers, auditors, board members, and even a State Senator, has since been proven to be entirely false. It has caused irreparable damage to this hospital and this board. It has caused innocent people to lose their jobs. It has caused the dismantling of Memphis Community Pharmacy and the loss of revenue generated from it. And finally, it has caused the loss of my trust in the interim CEO, the COO, and board chairman Lori Fulk,” said Lloyd.
Bob Neese gave the final board statement, which included an analogy reference to “The Music Man” in which Neese compared the community to the town of River City.
“I’ve been on this board too long. I’ve been here longer than most of you have worked at the hospital – well over 20 years. It’s interesting to listen to the oath of office. That’s a pretty serious oath being given. If someone ignores that oath to pursue their own agenda, that’s a real problem,” said Bob Neese.
“With that rumor of me buying that property right over there for 100K and selling it to Dr. Tobler and we split the profits. People were happy to pass that around but it’s easy enough to find that it was Marsha Dial, CEO, who authorized me to go to the auction and bid on the property and buy it for the hospital. But the salacious rumor is more fun isn’t it. Dr. Tobler had nothing to do with buying that property. And there was a story that I was screaming in Dr. Tober’s office on August fifteenth, screaming out, what are you going to do to fix it. Was I?” Neese asked CEO Administrative Assistant Lori Brewer, continuing, “You know I was there. You handed me the paper to sign for the bank. Remember that August fifteenth?”
“Okay,” replied Lori Brewer.
“Yep, I walked across into Dr. Tobler’s office,” said Neese.
“No, I didn’t hear anything,” Brewer responded.
“No. I know you didn’t hear anything because it never happened. We had a civil conversation for about five to ten minutes,” said Neese.
Dr. Neil Hoyal Interjects to Defend His Son
Following Neese’s statement, Dr. Neil Hoyal stood and addressed the three executive members in the room.
“I have a comment. I’d like to say something since you slandered and libeled my son,” said Dr. Neil Hoyal while pointing at Bob Neese.
“No,” replied Neese.
“Yes, you did. This is a public forum. That’s called libel and this is called slander and there will be legal consequences – I want you to understand that,” said Hoyal.
“I resent your accusations against my son because I happen to know his motivations are pure regardless of what you think. You have something to hide and that’s the problem,” said Hoyal.
Fulk attempted to move on to the next meeting agenda item after Hoyal’s comments. She was stopped by Neese moving to go into executive session saying, “I move we go into executive session right now,” which was followed by Doubet’s immediate second to the motion.
The closed portion of the meeting lasted approximately 30 minutes before the public meeting was reconvened. Once the meeting went back into public session, it continued without the three executive officers Lloyd, Doubet and Neese, who submitted resignation letters before leaving the hospital meeting room.
With Fulk and board member Travis Trueblood attending the meeting via zoom video, the only board member left in the room was newly sworn-in member Holt.
The final portion of the meeting included several staff reports, which can be viewed in the second video recorded during the meeting available on memphisdemocrat.com.
Two videos were recorded during both public portions of the meeting. Those videos are available for public inspection on memphisdemocrat.com.
Special Meeting Held on September 30
The SCH board reconvened at the hospital on Friday morning, September 30. During the meeting, Trueblood and Holt voted to accept the resignations of Lloyd, Doubet, and Neese.
Nic Hatfield also rejoined the board and was sworn-in by Fulk via zoom. Hatfield was reappointed to the board to fill the District 1 seat vacated by Neese.
Before going into the executive session, the board voted to add Achim Hoyal as a co-signer to all hospital bank accounts, which have been moved to a two signature system, according to Weber.
The next public meeting of the SCH Board of Directors is scheduled to take place on Monday, October 10, at 5:30 p.m. in the hospital conference room/library.
Attorney General’s Office Representatives Meet with Former Board Members
Also on Friday, September 30, Bob Neese told the Memphis Democrat he, Lloyd, and Doubet met with representatives of the Missouri Attorney General’s Office to discuss alleged Missouri Sunshine Law violations by representatives of the hospital, and two representatives traveled to Memphis to conduct the meetings. The meetings were recorded and documented by the Attorney General’s Office personnel, and the discussions were strictly on the topic of the Missouri Sunshine Law, said Neese.