County hires legal counsel to review letter

By Amanda McBride
The Choctaw Plaindealer

After receiving a letter from Pioneer Health Services the Choctaw County Board of Supervisors has hired outside legal counsel to review it.

The supervisors received the letter from Pioneer on March 3 and later that day went into executive session to discuss it.

In the March 3 meeting, the board held the executive session for potential litigation reasons.

“Do not discuss the latest correspondence with Pioneer in open session because it is possible litigation,” said Steve Wright, board attorney, as his legal opinion.

After approximately 30 minutes, the board opened the meeting to the public. Chris McIntire, board president, announced in executive session the board approved to authorize Wright to contact Watkins & Eager Law Firm for a professional services agreement to review the letter.

The Board of Supervisors met March 5 to discuss the professional services agreement with Watkins & Eager for attorney Michael Gwinn.

After reviewing the agreement, District 5 Supervisor Eric Chambers questioned Wright about the agreement.

Chambers asked how much time it would take for Gwinn to review the two-page letter, since the county is not under litigation with Pioneer at this time.

Wright said it is unknown how much time it would take for the legal review. Chambers also asked Wright if he thought this would lead to litigation. Wright said that would be determined after the county approves the professional services agreement.

Chambers began to question Wright on the lease between the county and Pioneer. Tempers began to flare and McIntire had to call the meeting back to order.

After more discussions, District 4 Supervisor David Carter asked questions about the professional services agreement. He made sure that the first step was for Gwinn to review the letter and give the board his legal opinion. Then if litigation is needed and if the county hires Watkins &Eager then the fees in the agreement would be their legal fees.

District 1 Supervisor Archie Collins made the motion to approve the professional services agreement with Watkins & Eager with a second from McIntire. The board voted 4-1 to approve the agreement. Chambers voted against it.

During the public comment portion of this board meeting, Chambers began again to question the board about the hospital lease. Collins temper rose and he asked Chambers, “What’s your vendetta? Are you trying to get the county into a lawsuit?”

Chambers continued asking questions and Collins made comments blaming Chambers for interfering in healthcare business. After an argument between Collins and Chambers the board moved onto more public comment.

Kenny King began questioning the board about the hospital situation.

After many questions, McIntire stated, “The county need to be coming back together. This back biting needs to quit.”

Before ending the meeting, McIntire gave an update on companies he and the board has met with that is interested in the hospital and nursing home.

McIntire said Long Term Care Services and Bruce Kelly are interested in the nursing home.

Carter asked McIntire to please update the board at each board meeting with who he has been in contact with that may be interested in the county health care facilities.

The board approved the following in the March 3 meeting:

  • February minutes.
  • Jail inspection.
  • Claims.
  • Transfer $7,606.42 from Fund 130 to Fund 131.
  • Travel for the circuit clerk and Willie Mae Guillory, election commissioner, to Jackson on March 4.
  • To close the abandoned portion of Pigeon Roost Road in District 2. When the new bridge was installed it also straightened the road. A public hearing was held February 28 and no public comments were made.

February 28 meeting

Allen Gamble, administrator of Pioneer Community Hospital of Choctaw, requested the county pay the indigent care payments monthly instead of quarterly. He said Pioneer would in turn pay the hospital licensure monthly. Gamble requested the board to pay the January and February indigent are payments that day.

The supervisors approved 4-1 to pay the January and February indigent care payments. District 5 Supervisor Eric Chambers voted against it.

In the February 29 meeting the Choctaw County Board of Supervisors approved:

  • Resolution to name part of Highway 15 in honor of the late Anthony Lucas.
  • Transfer $29,999 out of District 1 to Fund 157. Fund 157 is funds from FEMA.
  • To pay the employer portion of PERS for Constables Chris Coleman and Thomas Raybourn beginning in 2014. Both constables previously asked the supervisors to consider paying the PERS match.
  • Payroll.
  • Travel for District 4 Supervisor David Carter to attend the Supervisors Association Minority Caucus at Lake Tiak O’Khata and $100 registration fee.
  • To pay Billy Bruce $1,114 to purchase a right of way for District 1 on the Sanders Road Bridge Project, subject to Bruce signing the deed.
  • To hire Jan Butler as a special prosecutor as the request of Kevin Null. Null recused himself from this case.
  • 16 section leases for Franklin Shumaker and Reform Volunteer Fire Department.
  • To waive the $1,000 fee for using county GIS information for the Choctaw County Soil and Water Conservation District. The district is using the information to update the county plat book.
  • Postage of $255 for the tax assessor/collector.
  • To give Southeastern Timber Products an additional five year tax exemption as according the original agreement with the county. STP has met all job creation and investment requirements for the exception.

The next Board of Supervisors meeting will be March 17 at 9 a.m. at the courthouse.