Jackson Co. supervisors want hospital trustees to resign after pension fallout

Jackson Co. supervisors want hospital trustees to resign after pension fallout

JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - The fallout continues from the scandal surrounding Singing River Health's System underfunded pension plan. Jackson County Supervisors are now asking every member of the embattled Singing River Health System Trustee board to resign.

In a four to one vote, supervisors passed the resolution at Monday's meeting. Supervisors said certified letters will be sent out this week to all the trustees asking them to step down from the board immediately.

After the vote, the crowd at the meeting erupted in applause.

"I am very shocked, but very happy," one Jackson County resident said.

Many of folks at the meeting were retirees of the health system who have long accused the trustees of playing a role in the pension plan debacle. After 2009, the health system stopped contributing to the plan, but employees and retirees weren't told until late last year.

"It is great day in Jackson County. I think the board has shown us some trust by calling for the immediate step down of the board of trustees," another retiree said.

Supervisors admit the overhaul was needed after more and more problems started surfacing. Just last week, former trustee Morris Strickland was forced to resign after learning he didn't meet the residency law. Current member Allen Cronier has also come under fire for reportedly owning homes in Hurley and Mobile County, Alabama. According to Mobile County's Department of Revenue, the former trustee claims the Alabama property as his primary residence.

"We had folks with residency issues; we have one that has a questionable homestead exemption," Supervisor Troy Ross said.

"I don't think everyone on there has done something illegal or wrong, but it is a first step in a healing and moving forward process and it's a process we had to take," Supervisor Mike Mangum said.

Barry Cumbest was the only supervisor not in favor of the resolution. He wants his appointee, Cronier, to stay on the board despite him being under a shadow.

"I think Allen would be very open to any new suggestions that will come before the trustees. He is a legal resident of Jackson County and if he has some issues in Alabama, then it is up to him to get those issues resolved. It was not easy to go against the group, but I thought I was doing the right thing," Cumbest said.

WLOX contacted the president of the Board of Trustees, Michael Heidelberg, and he had no immediate comment. Singing River Health System did release a statement that said, "This matter is between the Board of Supervisors and their individual appointees on the Board of Trustees. Until the matter is resolved, the health system wouldn't have any further comment."

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