Jeff Parish IG to monitor leasing of public hospitals

The on-going discussions over the leasing of Jefferson Parish’s two public hospitals will be monitored by the parish’s inspector general to ensure the process complies with state law and the final contract does not put the parish in a problematic situation.

The task is the first Inspector General David McClintock will publicly take on in his role as Jefferson Parish’s watchdog and will ensure that his office knows “what’s going on with the hospitals from the moment the lease is signed to the moment the lease expires.”

That oversight role was unveiled as McClintock announced his first two hires and a location for his new office to the parish’s Ethics and Compliance Commission Wednesday.

McClintock said he will not get directly involved in the decision-making process now underway to determine which of three companies will win a 30-year lease for East Jefferson General Hospital and West Jefferson Medical Center.

McClintock said he has received an “incredible amount of input” on the hospital deal from the public but so far most of what has come out has been only rumors.

“I have zero information at this point in time to indicate there was any wrongdoing in this process to date,” McClintock said.

However, he said, oversight of the process is important to prevent problems such as those that plagued the construction of the Jefferson Performing Arts Center. That project has has been mired in construction issues and seen its costs more than double.

McClintock said it will be much easier to correct problems as the process is moving forward than it would to seek to remedy them after the fact.

The boards of the two hospitals appeared deadlocked after an all-day, closed-door meeting in which the West Jefferson board unanimously supported Louisiana Children’s Medical Center while nearly all the members of the East Jefferson board chose HCA, a national hospital company.

Ochsner Health System also put in a bid to take over the hospitals.

It is unclear how the process will proceed from here, but the Jefferson Parish Council, which has the final say, is expected to take up the issue in the coming weeks to give more guidance to the boards in hopes of generating consensus.

McClintock also announced the hiring of his first two staff members. Kim Raines Chatelain, who will serve as first assistant inspector general, and Brian Smith, who will serve as deputy inspector general for investigations.

Chatelain, who will serve as general counsel and coordinate policy, procedure and procurement matters for the office, was appointed as Jefferson Parish’s first director of governmental and ethics compliance in 2011. A practicing attorney for 20 years, she has previously worked as an assistant attorney general for the state.

Smith will oversee the department’s investigations and is a 23-year veteran of the Maryland-National Capital Park Police. He has served as an intelligence officer for the department, commander of professional standards and internal affairs, commander of investigations, executive officer and assistant chief.

Chatelain will make about $105,000 a year while Smith will make about $85,000, McClintock said. Both start Sept. 3.

The hiring of Chatelain and Smith are key steps to filling out the other positions in what McClintock envisions as an eight- to nine-person office, since the inspector general has said he wants top staff involved in selecting the people who will report to them.

The office now also has an official home at 5401 Jefferson Highway.

The lease for that space calls for the Inspector General’s Office to pay $6,750 a month to lease 4,154 square feet of office space.