Attorney Billy Guice gets on bad side of both SRHS executives an - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Attorney Billy Guice gets on bad side of both SRHS executives and retirees

Attorney Billy Guice was hired by the Jackson County Board of Supervisors to investigate the Singing River Health System pension plan. (Photo source: WLOX) Attorney Billy Guice was hired by the Jackson County Board of Supervisors to investigate the Singing River Health System pension plan. (Photo source: WLOX)
JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) -

Both Singing River Health System executives and the retirees now have something in common. They don't like what Billy Guice has to say about the pension plan debacle.

Attorney Billy Guice, hired by the Jackson County Board of Supervisors to investigate the plan, has been putting out fires for seven months in an effort to figure out what went wrong and why. And he has plenty of blame to go around.

He blames executives and the board of trustees for misleading statements about the condition of the pension plan.

Singing River Health System stopped contributing to the pension plan in 2008, but did not tell pension members until late 2014.

"Had the board just manned up and told people what was happening and taken the hard decision then, we wouldn't be where we are today. ... The flaw was they didn't tell anybody. Had they told someone there's provisions in the plan where they could have terminated the plan and moved forward."

In a statement, Singing River Health System officials denied that the Board of trustees or Kevin Holland, the current CEO, intentionally mislead anyone about the state of the pension fund.

But that's not the only issue Guice points to. He also blames bad investment decisions that helped create a fiscal problem with the hospital.

He said this of former CEO Chris Anderson.

"Chris Anderson's biggest flaw was taking a community hospital in a direction where it should not go," he said. "And as a result, they would talk about world class medicine in Pascagoula, Mississippi, and Ocean Springs, Mississippi, and it made no sense whatsoever except for those who were listening to him."

Hospital officials say that's a narrow view. They point to a number of factors that led to the current financial situation.

Singing River Health system officials are arguing that while the hospital system has seen some bad years, recent action by the current leadership is turning the financial situation around.

Most controversially, in the report, Guice suggests the pension cannot be saved in its current state and that there will be no bailout from the county.

"I believe the plan can be saved in a different form," he said. "I do not believe the plan can be saved at 100 percent. I do not believe the plan can be saved in the manner that the hospital is attempting."

That has retirees fuming.

"It's not enough to tell us that the hospital doesn't have the money to fund our pension plan," said SRHS retiree Kitty Aguilar. "They spent it. We want to know where they spent it, how they spent it, and why they spent it."

Meanwhile, Guice said his focus is now to work on how to keep the hospital solvent. Some of the suggestions include eliminating dual facilities, going to more outpatient services, and cutting back on unnecessary bed space.

Copyright 2015 WLOX. All rights reserved.

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