(Host) State and federal prosecutors are investigating Vermont’s largest hospital. Attorney General William Sorrell says his office is looking into allegations that top officials at Fletcher Allen hospital in Burlington deliberately circumvented state regulatory review with a multi-million dollar parking garage project. Sorrell says the office of the U.S. attorney is also involved in the probe.
VPR’s John Dillon reports.
(Dillon) When Fletcher Allen trustees met Wednesday in an emergency session and put their CEO on paid leave, state Attorney General Sorrell was across town meeting with federal law enforcement officials.
Sorrell says his first job is to find out who knew what when, and if any laws were broken. He says if necessary, he’ll make hospital officials testify under oath.
(Sorrell) “We’ll be looking at any violations of Vermont law, civil or criminal. We have many more questions than answers at this point.”
(Dillon) Sorrell says four members of his staff are working on the investigation. His says the team is getting full cooperation from a committee of hospital trustees that was named Wednesday to also examine the issue of regulatory compliance.
The investigations follow the release last week of testimony from David Cox, the hospital’s former chief financial officer. Cox said under oath that the hospital president ordered a financing scheme designed to avoid state review of a $55 million parking garage.
The state’s Department of Banking Insurance and Health Care Administration investigated the garage issue. But by the time officials determined the garage needed a permit, they said it was too late to stop the project.
Sorrell says his office has been involved in the hospital review for months, but the investigation stepped up after the Cox testimony was released. The attorney general was careful not to charge that the hospital had broken any laws. But he says state fraud statutes prohibit lying under some instances to state government boards.
Governor Howard Dean says he welcomes the attorney general’s probe:
(Dean) “The answer to the question I want to know is, who did this, how many people were involved, what is the extent of what they did? Because we really don’t know, we’ve had all kinds of allegations. We need to find out what’s true and what’s not. And what should happen to the individuals and the institution.”
(Dillon) Shortly after Sorrell’s announcement, Fletcher Allen trustee Louise McCarren met with reporters at her office in South Burlington. She promised that the hospital will cooperate fully with the investigation:
(McCarren) “It’s much better for us. We welcome it. We want their participation. We believe that will help the outcome.”
(Dillon) Sorrell says he’s pleased with hospital’s cooperation, but he says he’s also concerned that hospital documents are not destroyed before investigators get a chance to review them.
For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.