Having been both busy at work and playing hurt for the last four weeks, I have not been able to study the ongoing Singing River Health System pension debacle enough to add anything to the conversation. But it has quickly become THE big legal story in Mississippi and promises to be for the foreseeable future.
For anyone not familiar with the story, Singing River Health System is the hospital in Jackson County and, like many hospitals in Mississippi, is county-owned. Not that county governments are qualified to run hospitals.
Here is the short version of the scandal: in 2009 SRHS stopped contributing its portion to the employee pension plan. But they didn’t disclose it to employees. In fact, they did the opposite. They represented to employees in account statements that SRHS was making its contributions to the employees’ pensions. They also continued to debit employees’ paychecks for each employee’s contribution for three years, even though the system was imploding.
It was brazenly fraudulent conduct that continued for years.
The county supervisors who appointed the hospital board claim ignorance. So does the hospital board, who were likely appointed for being loyal cronies to the supervisors as opposed to actually being qualified to serve on a hospital board. The hospital CEO who oversaw the debacle now leads Baptist Health System in Jackson. Surprisingly, Baptist hasn’t canned him.
SRHS recently sued the KPMG accounting firm alleging colossal accounting negligence in performance of the sytem’s financial audits. There are also reports of multiple criminal investigations involving people connected with the hospital. A lot of contracts are being closely scrutinized. Sound familiar?
I will continue to follow the story. We’ll just have to wait and see how much I write about it on this blog.
One take home on this as that this shows that public employee pension funds are fragile.