Council Rethinks Poe Hire

Hospital Negotiations Land in County’s Lap

WINNSBORO (Sept. 15, 2016) – During Monday’s County Council meeting, County Administrator Jason Taylor called members’ attention to a request for action to engage the services of Parker Poe Consulting, LLC for assistance with legal matters relating to Fairfield Memorial Hospital. The issue had been sent forward to Council by the Administration and Finance Committee on Sept. 7.

At that meeting, attended by Parker Poe attorney Ray Jones and Milton Pope who is on retainer to the County, Taylor reviewed with Committee members Marion Robinson and Carolyn Robinson (Mary Lynn Kinley was not present) the situation – that the hospital is looking to partner with someone who would come in and take over Fairfield Memorial’s services.

“It appears that the hospital is leaning on us to work up and develop a contract with this third party partner,” Taylor said. “Initially, we had the concept that they were going to take the lead on this, but they asked us where we were in the process. In order for us to move forward, and even if we continue to work with the hospital, which obviously we have to do, I think we need to know what we expect for the millions of dollars the County may contribute toward this new plan.”

Taylor said that since Council members are not health care experts, they might need to make sure they get this right, legally. He suggested that Council probably does need to hire someone to assist in the legal process.

“There are things we think we know, but there are probably a lot of questions that we aren’t going to know to ask because, again, we are not experts in health care,” Taylor said.

Turning to the County Association for guidance, Taylor said they advised looking at how this same kind of thing has unfolded in other areas – Barnwell being an example.

“I talked to Pickens Williams in Barnwell about their situation,” Taylor said, “and I talked to several legal firms besides Parker Poe.”

Marion Robinson (District 5) had questions.

“I guess I’m a little confused. Why, all of a sudden, is this a County contract deal instead of a hospital contract deal,” Robinson asked.

“I don’t know,” Carolyn Robinson (District 2) said. “It is just the perception of what came down and the information that was passed to us last week when we met. Regardless of what they’re (hospital) doing, we still have to be totally responsible for protecting the interest of the citizens and protecting their funds and going forward and doing the best we can.”

The committee voted 2-0 to send the issue forward to Council for discussion.

But a sticking point with some Council members is the fact that Parker Poe’s legal and consultation services will come to more than $25,000, above what is allowed to be approved by the Administrator. According to the County’s Procurement Code, any amount above $25,000 must be subject to sealed bid.

When the item came up for discussion on Council’s agenda Monday evening, Taylor said new information had come to light. He suggested that before taking action to engage the services of Parker Poe, that Council discuss it further in executive session.

While Council did not take a vote on the issue following executive session, Councilman Billy Smith (District 7) said after the meeting he was glad Council held off and discussed the issue further.

“I do think we need to procure legal services in regard to the hospital and continuing to provide health care in Fairfield County,” Smith said. “And we need to go through proper procurement procedures in doing that.”