Originally created 03/15/03

Agency receives subpoena delivery



GBI agents from the health care fraud control task force served subpoenas at the Community Mental Health Center of East Central Georgia on Thursday as part of a Medicaid fraud investigation.

Also on Thursday, the center's attorney, Paul David, resigned under pressure, according to Dr. Jack Cheatham, the finance chairman of the center's governing board.

Mr. David was pressed to sign a letter of resignation by attorney Mike Hagler, whom the board recently hired to represent it during the investigations, Dr. Cheatham said.

Mr. David did not return phone calls Thursday and Friday seeking his response.Mr. Hagler also did not return calls Friday.

Meanwhile, a third member has resigned from the board. Richmond County Marshal Steve Smith is the latest to quit since the investigation began. Marshal Smith cited professional and family reasons for his departure, Mayor Bob Young said.

One of Thursday's subpoenas was for Duncan Drugs, which has a contract with the center to provide its medication. Owner Duncan Fordham said Friday that he did not know what the subpoena was about.

"I think everybody down there's getting one that's got a contract with them," he said.

The state investigation was triggered in January by a then-anonymous letter by a center employee alleging corruption and cronyism involving Executive Director Mike Brockman and former state Rep. Robin Williams and his associates.

Mr. Brockman and Administrator Jim Points remain on paid leave pending the outcome of the inquiry. As of Nov. 30, Mr. Brockman made $152,542 a year, including benefits, and Mr. Points made $126,542.

The author of the letter, former Clinical Director Sharon Haire, later admitted writing it and filed a whistle-blower lawsuit, claiming she was demoted because of it. She was subsequently fired, but center officials insist it was because of her job performance.

Dr. Cheatham said he blamed Dr. Nancy Williamson for causing the problems and splitting the board since she became chairwoman in July.

"The place is a mess, and Williamson is at the bottom of it," he said.

Dr. Williamson did not return a phone message Friday.

The center billed Medicaid more than $8 million last fiscal year and received $10 million in direct aid from the state in addition to fees from private insurance.

The center provides mental health, mental retardation and substance abuse services to thousands of patients throughout a seven-county region.

The state Health Care Fraud Control Unit is made up of GBI agents, the attorney general's office and the Georgia Department of Audits.

The attorney general's office also has been looking into a complaint filed against Mr. Williams over some consulting he did for a south Georgia hospital.

Mr. Williams is associated with International Consulting Corp., which was paid $250,000 for an unsuccessful five-month effort to obtain a state license for a child and adolescent services inpatient unit.

International Consulting, run by Chad Long, the grandson of former Georgia House Speaker Tom Murphy, returned $208,000 to the center after the investigation began. The remaining $42,000 went to Atlanta attorney Pam Stephenson, according to John B. Long, an attorney for Mr. Williams.

Ms. Stephenson, now a state representative from DeKalb County, previously worked in the office that issues the license the center was seeking.

State records show other connections between Mr. Williams and the people and companies doing business with Augusta's Community Mental Health Center. Capitol Health Systems, which took over the center's billing in August, is in the same office as Mr. Williams' insurance company on Columbia Road.

The center agreed to pay Capitol Health $100,000 a month, plus up to a 20 percent bonus for increased revenue collected and for speeding up billings and collection.

Mr. Williams has denied any wrongdoing and has said he probably will sue somebody, most likely Dr. Williamson.

Reach Sylvia Cooper and Tom Corwin at (706) 724-0851.