Get comfortable as this will be a LONG post. Readers know I previously put in a complaint to the sheriff's department, first, about GRMC spending taxpayer money in Pecan Plantation and second, about the unaccountable slush fund money going to the 501a. On the second, Greg Doyle is still looking into this, on the first, Andy Lucas has said the remedy for the taxpayer is to take this to court. He said
If there was anything in Chapter 286 which prevented the district from doing so, I would take a look at it. If a citizen seeks injunctive relief from the district court, the judge can make the determination.
Keep in mind that he very well could have checked into getting an Attorney General opinion to clarify the issue, on behalf ot the taxpayers who are funding a clinic in a private gated community, but chose not to. Also, note that his argument has holes shot through it, per below.
When I first asked the sheriff's office to look at the spending of taxpayer money at Pecan Family Medical Center, I didn't hear anything back for a long time. Meanwhile, I did an open records request to see if the hospital board had asked their attorneys, Kevin Reed, for an opinion, and yes, they have. Here is that opinion, and I will be taking this apart point by point.
First, from attorney Trent Krienke
As you watch this, notice that my complaint talks about "spending taxpayer money in Hood County at Pecan Family Medical Center" and whether "the District may operate a medical clinic located outside of the District's boundaries in another hospital district"
In the arguments above, the Legislature expressly authorized operations outside a district's boundaries. This has not been done here State ex rel Grimes isn't even about the same thing. In that instance some different cities had a cooperative agreement to create a Texas Municipal Power Agency and when they wanted to put a lignite coal plant in Grimes County, the taxpayers said that the act under which the TMPA was created was unconstitutional. Nobody argues whether the Somervell County Hospital District is constitutional. Also, the reason Grimes lost is that for whatever reason they didn't provide reasons for their side.
The appellants failed to file an affidavit, as authorized by Rule 166-A(f), stating reasons why they were unable to present by affidavit the facts essential to justify their opposition. Had such an affidavit been filed, the court would have been authorized to refuse the application for a judgment and/or to order a continuance to permit discovery to be had.
The other instances don't really apply. They refer to political subdivisions of the state, but again, no one disputes that the Somervell County Water District is a political entity of the state. And at least one of these cases appears to be about eminent domain, which also does not apply.
Tri City Fresh Water Supply This reference says that even legislative grants of power to these entities are read restrictively. and local water conservation districts only have powers that are CLEARLY GRANTED by the legislature ....
Jackson County Hospital District-again, while this is interesting in that it talks about whether a hospital district board can close an emergency room at one of it's district hospitals, doesn't really apply.
Notice when you read this next, this is not about generally having a clinic in Hood County, as the attorneys would have it, but a clinic IN ANOTHER DEFINED HOSPITAL DISTRICT, Hood County's Hospital District. Remember that Hood County residents pay NO hospital district tax, because their district opted to create an agreement between private hospital entity CHS and the citizens.
When you voted for or against the creation of a hospital district, you voted for this, per the petition.
7. The boundaries of the District shall be conterminous the boundaries of Somervell County.
8. NONE OF THE TERRITORY IN THE DISTRICT IS INCLUDED IN ANOTHER HOSPITAL DISTRICT ESTABLISHED PURSUANT TO THE LAWS OF THE STATE OF TEXAS.
The law says that two hospital districts cannot exist in the same space.
What is the point of a hospital district, anyway? Is it so that some hospital corporation can go make a profit and run as a business? Or is it, as the LAW SAYS, to provide medical aid and hospital care to indigent and needy persons that live IN THE DISTRICT? If you believe, as some do, that the hospital ought to be a free enterprise, going concern, in the same way that CHS is in Granbury, then what you want is not a hospital district but a lease arrangement with a private hospital. (Don't forget that GRMC was a private non profit before they decided not to pay back that 14.4 mill that Mike Ford put on our backs).
GA-0552 -Note when you read this that, first, Yoakum County was not then (don't know if they are now) a hospital district. Yoakum County had a hospital and wanted to put a clinic in an adjoining hospital district territory in Gaines County. The reason Yoakum County wanted to put a clinic in another hospital district was because "neither the Gaines County hospital district covers the municipality of Seagraves in the northern portion of Gaines County". Besides the fact that Somervell County is the second smallest county in Texas, if you look at a map, you'll see that Gaines County is way over in west Texas. So, it isn't the case that Hood County is so large or unpopulated that they cannot cover all their county. (Quite a few people I know regularly drive to Granbury to shop; from Pecan Plantation, it's probably a 10-15 minute drive from PP or less to get to Lake Granbury hospital). Second, it isn't that Hood County doesn't cover Pecan Plantation, it's that Pecan Plantation has a restricted lease with Glen Rose Medical Center and will not allow other medical providers within its gates. (Who do you think pays for that lease?) Also notice what says was supposed to happen IF an entity wants to put a clinic in another district. (I refer here to what did NOT happen with the county commissioners)
Because determining whehter a particular acquisition is necessary for hospital purposes requires the resolution of fact questions, the commissioners court must make the determination in the first instance, subject to judicial review for abuse of discretion... Similarly, before the commissioners court may order an expenditure of county funds to own or operate a medical clinic in an adjacent county, it must determine that the expenditure serves a legitimate county purpose. See Tex Const Art III 52(2) (Prohibiting the expenditure of public funds for private purposes).
The rub here is what is a "hospital purpose". Note that neither Andy Lucas nor Trent Krienke addressed one of the central points in my complaint, which is that a hospital purpose must be a public purpose. (see L-097-068 If you cannot, as a resident in Somervell County, poor or not, even ENTER the premises of that clinic, it is NOT a public purpose.
JM-858 If you read this carefully, you will see that the circumstances are not the same. Presidio had a hospital district but didn't put facilities within its own boundaries for medical care. So another hospital district said hey, we want you to spend some of your money on our facilities. And, we have your needy people coming to our hospital.
Presidio County Hospital District may affiliate with another hospital district to provide medical care to the needy inhabitants of Presidio County. The agreement between the affiliating entities may provide for Presidio County Hospital District to fund capital expenditures for the other hospital district.
We will beat this drum again. A needy person CANNOT JUST WALK INTO PECAN PLANTATION CLINIC TO GET HELP.
JM-257-Sweeny Hospital District
Thus, neither the enabling statute nor the constitutional provision upon which it is based expressly prohibits acquisitions of real property located outside the district. However, because special purpose districts have only the authority clearly granted by the legislature, the determinative question is whether the legislature has clearly granted the Sweeny Hospital District the authority to acquire real property outside of its boundaries, not merely whether the legislature has not prohibited such action. See Attorney General Opinion WW-914 (1960). In the Sweeny Hospital District's enabling statute, the legislature granted authority to acquire real property but did not clearly indicate the scope of the power.
This shoots a hole in the Andy Lucas argument about whether the hospital district definition clearly allows for operating a non-public clinic in a gated community. He should GO ASK. More from Sweeney
...we conclude that the lack of an express grant to the Sweeny Hospital District of authority to acquire property outside its boundaries, and the express limit on the exercise of its eminent domain power to within its boundaries indicate that the legislature did not intend the district to have the implied power to acquire property located outside of its boundaries.
Further, the fundamental purpose for the hospital district militates against implied authorization for the acquisition of facilities outside the boundaries of the district. The sole purpose of the Sweeny Hospital District is to provide medical and hospital care to persons residing in the hospital district. Acts 1963, 58th Leg., ch. 135, s 2. Conceivably, a medical facility located outside the district's boundaries may be near enough to the district to serve its inhabitants efficiently. Although purchasing an existing facility outside the district could be less expensive than purchasing one inside the district and less expensive than constructing a new facility, the inhabitants of a hospital district will usually best be served through medical facilities located within their district. A hospital district's difficulty in serving its inhabitants within its boundaries may indicate a need for a change in district boundaries rather than a need for acquisitions of facilities outside its boundaries. The legislature may provide a solution to this problem by authorizing expansion of the boundaries of a hospital district even when it is already in creation and subject to bonded indebtedness. See Stamford Hospital District v. Vinson, 517 S.W.2d 358 (Tex.Civ.App.--Eastland 1974, writ ref'd n.r.e.); see also Carter v. Hamlin Hospital District, 538 S.W.2d 671 (Tex.Civ.App.--Eastland 1976, writ ref'd n.r.e.).
Wait, Wait. Notice how the reply shifted from whether the District spends taxpayer money at Pecan Plantation (which is my complaint and well substantiated) to whether the cllinic makes a profit. These are entirely two different arguments.
YES, the District DOES spend taxpayer money on Pecan Family Medical Center. They spend money to lease the building, send medical equipment over there and through the 501a. Here's from an open records request I did about 6 months ago-judge for yourself The discussion of whether they make a profit from doing this is not relevant. Suppose your next door neighbor gave you money to operate a store in your own town, but then he finds out that some of his money is being spent in a store the next town over. You tell him that he cannot enter the store, it's only for people who live in the town over from you to enter. Although some people might be fine with "Oh, as long as you are making money", others might say, hey, I am having to pay you for the store in my own town, let those Golf Course playing people get their own store. I don't want to pay for it".
Plus, not sure where the fool the idea that Glen Rose Medical Center even KNOWS whether they make a profit or not comes from. Here's what Mike Honea said recently (and you can listen to this at the audio link)
Let's examine the second part of that "funds are then used to provide indigent care and support medical services within Somervell County". So.. you have a rich gated community that is entirely inside another hospital district, where that district's residents pay NO taxes for their district, where you presumably have no indigent people, and if you have someone FROM Somervell County that wants to use the clinic, he or she cannot because of not living IN Pecan Plantation. I'm sure that the Pecan Plantation people sit around and congratulate themselves on being able to feel like benefactors to those Poor Poor Somervell County residents who are too common to enter within the gates. I think the One-Off argument is not only specious but insulting.