Sorrell expects action soon on Fletcher Allen case

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(Host) It’s been a year since state and federal officials launched investigations into financial improprieties at Fletcher Allen Health Care in Burlington. Governor Jim Douglas says he’s frustrated by the slow pace of the probe. But Vermont’s attorney general says he expects some developments in the next few months.

VPR’s John Dillon reports;

(Dillon) Top managers at the state’s largest hospital left their jobs last year after allegations that they hid the true cost of a $356 million expansion project.

Attorney General Bill Sorrell says he met with federal prosecutors earlier this week on the Fletcher Allen case. Sorrell won’t provide details about the nature of the investigation. But one issue is whether hospital officials deliberately misled regulators.

(Sorrell) “We’re trying to see what laws, state and or federal, were broken, by whom, under whose direction, with who’s knowledge. Do we have enough evidence to charge one or more people publicly? And then do we have enough evidence that we feel we can prove and obtain a conviction beyond a reasonable doubt, which is the standard in the criminal arena which both we and federal prosecutors have to meet.”

(Dillon) Sorrell says federal prosecutors have a broad set of statutes they can use in their investigation.

(Sorrell) “When you’re dealing with the mails, you’re dealing across state lines and you’re dealing with lenders or insurance companies. That potentially brings in potentially a range of federal law issues. So we have both state laws that we’re looking at and the U.S. Attorney’s office are looking at potentially federal violations.”

(Dillon) The attorney general says the complex case involves tens of thousands of documents and numerous interviews. He says the hospital administration has cooperated fully with investigators.

Governor Jim Douglas said earlier this week that he’s frustrated with the pace of the probe. Sorrell he says he realizes that the criminal probe casts a long shadow over Fletcher Allen as it tries to rebuild its finances and hire new top managers.

(Sorrell) “I mean both we and the U.S. Attorney’s office are mindful that there’s been this cloud over the institution of Fletcher Allen, not just you know one or more individuals who are in the hierarchy of the institution itself. They’re looking for a new CEO. They’re trying to borrow money. Being under a cloud is something that has been difficult for the institution. And so we’re mindful of that and are trying to work expeditiously.”

(Dillon) A Fletcher Allen spokesman says hospital officials would like to see the investigation wrapped up as quickly as possible.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon.

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