Grand Jury: No crime in SRHS pension case - - The News for South Mississippi

Grand Jury: No crime in SRHS pension case

(Photo source: WLOX) (Photo source: WLOX)

A Grand Jury in Jackson County has determined no laws were violated when Singing River Health System leaders decided to cut back, and eventually stop funding the system's pension plan starting in 2008.

"There have been a lot of rumors, speculation and hearsay surrounding the facts in this matter," District Attorney Tony Lawrence said. "During a criminal investigation, rumors, speculation and hearsay are usually investigated and actually were in this case, but they are not admissible or acceptable evidence in our criminal justice system."

The members of the Grand Jury considered 353 counts pertaining to 224 cases involving 228 defendants. After pouring over the evidence, District Attorney Tony Lawrence said he believes the Grand Jury decided what happened at SRHS were business management decisions and not criminal conduct.

"Business decisions, whether they turn out good, bad or hurtful (some of these certainly were), are not criminal unless a specific statute makes them so," Lawrence said.

According to the Grand Jury report filed Friday,"The grand Jury found there were several financial factors that led the previous hospital administration to cease funding the Pension Plan, none of which amounted to a violation of criminal law."

Despite the finding that no laws were broken, the Grand Jury still expressed sympathy for those affected, writing that the finding "does not diminish the Grand Jury's concern for the affected retirees, employees, or the hospital itself."

"To ensure the survivability of the hospital, the Pension Plan needs to be fixed and the financial situation of the hospital solidified," DA Lawrence said. "I hope that our public discourse can be civil and productive to reach the goals of saving the hospital and ensuring that the employees and retirees are taken care of."

Mike Heidelberg, President of the SRHS Board of Trustees, released the following statement Friday in response to the Grand Jury's decision: 

"Singing River Health System has been open, transparent, and fully cooperative with all entities reviewing its past financial and operational practices since the communication of its challenges over the past year. We have stated from the outset that we were not aware of any criminal wrongdoing at SRHS, but would fully support and cooperate with all investigations to ensure this to be the case.

We respect the findings of the Grand Jury and the District Attorney and agree with their statement that the pension plan needs to be fixed and the financial situation of the healthcare system solidified to ensure the long-term survivability of this community asset. We are entirely focused on protecting the long-term viability of our community healthcare system and working towards the best possible resolution of our pension issue for all involved. Our patients, employees, and community are counting on us to continue providing high quality healthcare for generations to come, and we remain undaunted in doing just that."

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