County prosecutor asks AG to intervene in hospital investigation
Bingham County Prosecuting Attorney Scott Andrew hand delivered a letter to the Idaho Attorney General's (AG) office on Tuesday asking that the AG's office take over the prosecutorial responsibilities regarding activities that have occurred at Bingham Memorial Hospital (BMH, Inc.)
The letter has also been sent to BMH, Inc.'s attorney, Andrew said.
Andrew wrote, "As I indicated in my discussions with you last week, I am concerned about having an ethical conflict or the appearance of one if I continue to represent Bingham County on civil matters involving the hospital while, at the same time, making charging decisions or directing an investigation of criminal matters involving people associated with the hospital.
"As things have progressed, including the filing of a tort claim by the hospital [Monday], the possibility of an actual conflict appears to be more likely," he stated.
"With regard to appearances, I am concerned that if I make a decision to bring a criminal charge, I will be accused of only doing so to benefit the county's position," Andrew said. "Likewise, I am concerned that if I make a decision not to bring criminal charges, i will be accused of having done so for the purpose of benefiting the county's position and abandoning my prosecutorial responsibilities to the State of Idaho.
Andrew wanted the prosecutor making the decision whose motives will not be questioned.
He wrote, "I think it is of paramount importance that prosecutorial decision-making regarding activities occurring at the hospital be made by a prosecutor whose motives will not be questioned.
"The public interest in these issues and the need for the public to have faith in what is occurring with prosecutorial decisions are too important to be marred by the question of whether it is based on my loyalty to Bingham County or the State of Idaho," concluded Andrew.
In the press release provided by the Bingham Memorial Board of Directors on Monday, Chief of Staff Dr. Clark Allen stated, "The Board is very concerned that no allegations have been brought directly to us; no one has used the ethics hotline or spoken with our human resources department. No one has directly contacted management or the board of directors. ..."
BMH, Inc., attorney, Erik Stidham of Holland & Hart in Boise, said the statement was in reference to employee complaints.
"It is intended to refer to allegations brought through the processes set up by the hospital to deal with concerns or complaints," Stidham said. "Our concerns were that complaints were not coming directly to us but solely coming from the media."
Lee Hammett is a facilitator appointed by the county commissioners to look into concerns about the hospital expressed by former and current employees of BMH, Inc.
Hammett said, "I have tried to connect with the board and have offered them what we have found.
"In mid-May, people were willing to share their evidence in executive session but Board Chairman Lee Kniffin wanted people to go through a formal grievance process," he said.
"Of course we want to go to the board," said Hammett. "Don't you think it's a little unusual that we haven't heard from the board?"
Bingham County Commissioner Ladd Carter said the commissioners met once in May with board members Gordon Arave and John Fullmer, board chairman Lee Kniffin and Paul Kotter, Director, Public Relations & Marketing at BMH, Inc.
"We [the commissioners] have never had access to the [hospital] board since that one meeting," said Carter.
Dinah Karren, in human resources at BMH, Inc., said there is a chain of command in place for people to address a grievance.
"They go to their manager," Karren said. "If the grievance is with their manager, they should contact their division head.
"There is also a hotline for compliance issues," Karren said. "The employees can be anonymous.
"During new employee orientation and reorientation that is conducted every year, employees are made aware of these compliance policies," she said. "We try to communicate to inform people of their rights and provide access people who feel they are being wronged."
"Some issues are easily resolved," Karren said. "We have more happy employees who have been a long time; they are wonderful caregivers."