Barnwell hospital sale prompts court action

BARNWELL, S.C. -- A lawsuit filed Dec. 20 in Barnwell County names Barnwell County Council members as defendants. The suit was filed by nine people, some of whom are former Barnwell County Hospital board members. 
County Council members, Freddie Houston, David Kenner, Keith Sloan, Lowell Jowers Sr., Joe Smith, Harold Buckmon and Travis Black are now required to answer the complaint which charges that they breached their fiduciary duty by:

  • Paying the Williston Rescue Squad "excessive amounts" of $830,000 per year - including $149,000 per year to the director of the rescue squad - while reducing the millage rate to the hospital to 12 mills.
  •  While acting as County Council, refused to approve a 4 percent interest loan to the hospital from the USDA which was need to pay Medicare and Medicaid.
  • And "Financially crippled" and "forced" the hospital into bankruptcy.

The complaint also asks for the resolution passed by county council members to sell the hosptial be declared "illegal, unconstitutional and without force of law in that it violates the prohibition against dual office holding."

The complaint lists two resolutions the hospital board approved - one authorizing the sale of the hospital's assets and one authorizing the hospital to file a Chapter 9 bankruptcy petition.
The plantiffs in the suit are named as Don Alexander, Carolyne Williams, Georgia F. Fields, William R. "Bob" Dixon, Colonel Joe H. Zorn, Jr., Melanie Wright, Dr. M.O. Khan, Shirley Elmore and Janice Livingston.
Alexander, Williams and Khan are former hospital board members. Alexander and Williams were ousted when Barnwell County Council members voted to replace the current hospital board members with themselves, April 26. 

Dr. M.O. Khan, who was appointed by the medical staff of the hospital, resigned from the board earlier this year. He is listed as a "citizen" in the suit instead of a professional status.
The other plaintiffs are listed as residents of Barnwell County.
The suit was filed iin the Court of Common Pleas for the Second Judicial Circuit. A Columbia law firm is representing the plaintiffs.

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