Letter from Max Black submitted to wsgcradio.com

On 4 October 2018, there were unsubstantiated and false statements made by Tom Allgood during a candidate interview on WSGC radio/WSGC Website and by Casey Freeman on 9 October 2018 during the BOC Candidate Forum hosted by WSGC and the Elberton Star. With NO FACTUAL documentation, Mr. Allgood and Mr. Freeman publicly accused me of not doing my job as the Elbert County representative on the Elbert Memorial Hospital Authority Board. As a retired U.S Navy Captain who dutifully served his country with honor and integrity for over 27 years, I take great exception to Mr. Freeman’s public statements at the forum and Mr. Allgood’s WSGC statement Quote “The board (BOC) picked a member to be on the hospital authority, and his job was to report back to the board, and he hasn’t done that. I think if I’m elected, myself and the new board will strongly encourage him to keep us updated. It’s not right to be giving away taxpayers’ money and not account for it.” Unquote. Mr. Freeman made similar comments during the BOC Candidate Forum. First let me separate fact from fiction. There is no official requirement that the Elbert County Hospital Authority representative report back to the BOC in any type of written or oral capacity…I was not handed a job description (because it does not exist) that stated, “here is what you need to report on, the format, scope and width, the periodicity, etc”…My primary and ONLY formal requirement that I took a sworn oath for, was/is to be an active member of the Hospital Authority Board to operate EMH in a safe/regulatory abiding capacity providing health care to citizens of Elbert and surrounding counties. And I feel I do that very well. I have not missed a single Hospital Authority meeting since my 1st meeting in September 2014…4 years ago…I have been a member of the Hospital Authority Executive Committee for 3 years. I am also an active participant in the Medical Staff committee. So I attend 3 time consuming meetings on a monthly basis, all of which require significant preparation time, with no compensation. I do this as a civic and moral responsibility to keep our hospital open for our citizens with the parallel benefit of EMH performing as a very relevant economic pillar in our community. We have many citizens who are aging and who deserve and need close/local care, especially those in our 3 nursing homes. 70% of our inpatients for the past 3 years, were on Medicare. Now let me turn to the issue that both Mr. Allgood and Mr. Freeman raised of me failing (although not officially required) to report back to the BOC as a representative to the Authority Board. Nothing could be further from the truth. I was asked by the County Manager Bob Thomas, to periodically update the BOC…there was no official signed commitment to do this on my part and additionally there was no periodicity of updates committed to…With that said, on 5 February 2015 (it was moved from January 2015 by the county), I gave my first, fairly lengthy update on EMH to the BOC Work session meeting. Subsequent to that update, there was an agreement reached between the county/EMH/Authority, that the EMH CEO, Brandon Clary as part of EMH receiving county millage support, would on a quarterly basis, provide an EMH update. On several updates at to the BOC, he was also accompanied by the CFO at that time, Kelly Cox. These were highly detailed presentations, including Powerpoint slides which covered operational/financial status and information on where EMH was headed in terms of improving healthcare and our status with the ANMED partnership.. At these presentations, typically Daniel Graves, the Authority Chairman, and myself, would make additional and amplifying comments about EMH operations. So given that the BOC was getting highly detailed briefings on a very regular basis directly from the leadership of EMH and the Authority Chairman, with my two cents added on, there was absolutely NO NEED to give additional stand alone updates, as it would have been redundant and a waste of my and the BOC time. There were additional times I updated individual BOC members at their request and I had no problem whatsoever, with them sharing anything I told them. Also on January 20, 2017, I gave the County Manager Bob Thomas, a very lengthy update, which he was free to share with the BOC. Finally and very recently, on 9 August 2018, less than two months prior to the WSGC Candidate session/Candidate Forum at which Allgood’s/Freeman’s false statements were made, I was on the BOC Work Session agenda to give another EMH update. While I deferred to the Authority Chairman, Daniel Graves to give an update first, I also followed up his commentary, with my own. Since we’ve now transitioned from the ANMED partnership to a stand-alone hospital operation with a new CEO, we’ve reached another agreement with the BOC/County Manager, that our new CEO/CFO Kerry Trapnell, will resume giving quarterly updates to the BOC, so it will not make any sense for me to give additional updates in the future, unless I feel the need to do so as part of the CEO update, while still deferring to the Authority Chairman first, if he is present. I would also like to mention, that the BOC Chairman, Tommy Lyon, was present at most of the Authority Meetings I was at. An excruciating amount of operational/financial info is publicly shared at the monthly meeting and as the BOC Chairman, I would hope Mr. Lyon shared any and all relevant info with his board members. Why would I want or need to give the BOC the same info that Mr. Lyon received first hand?? Likewise the Elberton Star and WSGC cover these meetings and most relevant details were always broadcast/published. Any commissioner who wants to stay plugged in to what is happening in their community, is hopefully tuning in to WSGC/website and reading The Elberton Star. I would also like to state, that if there were any commissioners who really wanted first hand info covering all spectrums of EMH operations, THEY HAVE AN OPEN INVITATION and are highly encouraged to attend the monthly authority meeting and ask ANY questions. Other than Chairman Lyon, I only saw ONE other commissioner one time, in all the Authority Board meetings that I have attended for 4 years. In recent BOC/EMH history, there has probably not been another 4 year period of time, where the BOC was getting constant and voluminous amounts of information (enough to choke a horse), regarding the status of operations at EMH, than the period 2015-2018, in order to allow it to make fully informed decisions on the millage support provided to EMH. I would like to take this opportunity to ask the BOC to make attendance mandatory by one of the 5 commissioners on a rotating basis, so they can have no reason not to say that they are not getting info about EMH on a regular basis and can share with their peers. If all 5 wanted to come, that would be great. I also want to briefly comment on Mr. Allgood’s statement about GIVING away taxpayer money to EMH and not accounting for it. The millage support EMH gets, is directed towards uncompensated/indigent care…it is not frivolously given away. It is intended to compensate EMH for those people who are less fortunate than us, who can not afford insurance, copayments and high deductibles. The county is authorized and certainly morally obligated to assist with the healthcare needs of its citizens by Georgia State Law ( in no fewer than 4 sections of this law which are listed below)….specifically, Official Code of Georgia OCGA TITLE 48 – REVENUE AND TAXATION CHAPTER 5 – AD VALOREM TAXATION OF PROPERTY ARTICLE 4 – COUNTY TAXATION§ 48-5-220 – Purposes of county taxes:

48-5-220-(7) For public health purposes in the county

48-5-220-(9) To support indigent individuals;

48-5-220-(13) To provide hospitalization and medical or other care for the indigent sick people of the county;
48-5-220-(19) To provide for ambulance services within the county (we do this very well as part of the county budget)

So the money that is appropriated by the county to EMH, is fully sanctioned by State law and is 100% accounted for, as it reimburses us for ACTUAL COSTS INCURRED, and these indigent/uncompensated costs are substantiated in our financial records which are AUDITED and certified annually by a reputable accounting firm. And we have in ad nauseum, publicly stated (and documented in our financial reports), what our indigent/uncompensated care costs are, as part of our FORMAL annual millage support requests to the BOC.

In closing, I am greatly disappointed with two people who are running for the highest positions of public office in our county government, who chose as part of their political platform, to publicly call out an unpaid and dedicated volunteer on the Hospital Authority Board, by making ill-informed and false statements. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, the BOC in part and in whole, received briefings from myself, the Authority Board Chairman and top EMH leadership for the past 4 years….So you decide….who’s telling the truth?…..my verifiable facts or Allgood’s & Freeman’s fiction and “fake news”….if I have not been doing my job for over 4 years now, then shame on the BOC for not giving me written reprimands about my poor job performance or for not firing me years ago….and shame on two BOC candidates, for not doing their homework about the active communication that has routinely taken place between the Authority Board/EMH/BOC, especially the educator, Mr. Freeman, who gets a failing grade from me.

Max Black is a retired Navy Captain with 27 years of active duty service. He is a graduate of both Georgia Tech and an Honor Graduate of the UGA Terry College of Business (MBA)

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