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Local, state, federal officials launch Singing River Hospital probe

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Singing River Hospital

Singing River Hospital

— The Jackson County district attorney’s office, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the state auditor’s office are looking into allegations of misconduct by officials with Singing River Health System.

Singing River has been under constant fire since it was made public that the health system stopped paying into its retirees’ pension fund in 2009.

District Attorney Tony Lawrence said the agencies are on a fact-finding mission.

“If there were something of a criminal nature, I can assure you and I can assure the citizens that this office wants it to be presented to a grand jury,” Lawrence said. “It will be presented to a grand jury, so ultimately the citizens of this county … will decide if there’s criminal activity out there.”

Singing River spokesman Richard Lucas said the hospital is cooperating with the agencies involved.

“We have been and will continue to be completely open and transparent with all reviews and investigations of this or any nature. We are diligently providing all the information requested by these entities, and will continue to do so.

“If there is any evidence of wrong doing, we want it brought out and handled as quickly and appropriately as possible,” Lucas said a statement Wednesday.

Aside from this criminal investigation, several civil lawsuits have been filed against the health system to try to recover money lost in its pension fund and financial shortfalls.

Singing River stopped contributing to its pension fund after 2009 without informing employees. Employees continued to contribute a mandatory 3 percent of pay to retirement through payroll deductions.

Employee contributions stopped Nov. 20 after the Board of Trustees voted to terminate the plan and pay lump sums to those who had contributed. Vested employees and retirees had expected to receive pensions for life.

Singing River CEO Kevin Holland said the hospital welcomes that process.

“If there’s anything to suggest that there’s been any inappropriate activity here from a criminal standpoint, we obviously want that prosecuted as well,” Holland said. “We want it handled to the full extent of the law.”

 

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