Sen. Harper Peterson calls process of the potential sell of NHRMC ‘corrupt’

Sen. Harper Peterson calls process of the potential sell of NHRMC ‘corrupt’
GF Default - NHRMC Trustees vote to support county exploring options for selling hospital

NEW HANOVER COUNTY, N.C. (WECT) - State Senator Harper Peterson (D-New Hanover) filed a formal complaint Monday against the New Hanover County Commission for “their failure to fully inform and opening engage the citizens of New Hanover County (NHC) in the decision making process regarding the potential sale of New Hanover Regional Medical Center.”

The commission will consider an “Intent to Sell" resolution Monday evening. If approved, it will allow the county to issue a “Request for Proposal” to qualified groups that may be interested in buying the publicly-owned hospital.

Peterson is filing a complaint in part because he believes a deal is already in the works and a prospective buyer could potentially dictate the terms of a sale agreement.

“The government process in this matter has been corrupted, the public confidence has been violated, and a vote of ‘NO CONFIDENCE’ in this matter going forward is in order,” Peterson wrote in the formal complaint.

He also noted that there is no clear legal record of what entity actually owns the multiple properties, buildings, equipment, assets, etc. comprising of NHRMC. The senator believes NHC has misinterpreted state statue requirements regarding any and all proceeds from a sale - which would complicate the initiative.

Furthermore, Peterson feels there has been a “fiduciary lapse” by the commission with respect to protecting the county taxpayers.

“There has been no accountability to the taxpayers regarding the tens of thousands of tax dollars spent on NHC staff time, resources, marketing, etc. nor the tens of thousands of NHC tax dollars spent on contracts with third parties, including legal advisors, business consultants and communication specialists dating back months prior to the July 23rd public pronouncement that an effort would begin,” Peterson wrote.

Here’s a look at Peterson’s formal complaint:

Several NHC Commissioners were unaware that Peterson had filed a complaint.

“To say that we have had a fiduciary lapse is ridiculous,” Commissioner Pat Kusek said after reading the letter. “The vote today is not to sell, but to conduct research, gather data, seek public input (and there will be many opportunities for that), and do our jobs... which is to look down the road and determine the best future for healthcare for our citizens.”

“We are following the letter of the law,” Commissioner Julia Boseman said after hearing about the formal complaint. “This and other conspiracy theories are ridiculous and insulting.”

Commissioner Rob Zapple said he knew that Peterson was in touch with the Attorney General’s Office but had not yet seen his letter of complaint.

“Many of the issues that he brings up in the letter are valid points,” Zapple said. “I have heard the same frustrations that he references from the public about the lack of transparency, disingenuous public engagement, and the medical community being left out of the discussion.”

Woody White chose not to comment on the situation. Chairman Jonathan Barfield has not yet responded.

Copyright 2019 WECT. All rights reserved.