State Senator Brice Wiggins cancels meeting with Jackson Co. Boa - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

State Senator Brice Wiggins cancels meeting with Jackson Co. Board of Supervisors

Brice Wiggins (Photo source: Mississippi Legislature) Brice Wiggins (Photo source: Mississippi Legislature)
JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - The folks expecting to go to the Jackson County Board of Supervisors meeting to hear from the state senator who authored the bill that demands transparency from hospitals are going to be disappointed. 

Several Jackson County Supervisors say they're shocked that State Senator Brice Wiggins turned down an offer to explain the bill.

“I am a little surprised; I thought it was going to give us an opportunity to talk about the difference in interpretations of the bill,” said Supervisor Troy Ross.

Mississippi Senate Bill 2407 requires public meetings to happen at community hospitals statewide starting January 1st, 2016. That includes at Singing River Health System where there's a pension problem. 

Supervisor Melton Harris invited Wiggins to clear up some confusion about the new law after supervisors released a four page statement last week that said it would still limit the public from finding out the salaries of top administrators at the health system.

“Some interpret it that the salaries cannot be disclosed and some interpret that the salary can only be disclosed after the contract negations have been finalized, so we need to know for sure what the means,” Supervisor Harris said.

On Twitter, Senator Wiggins wrote the intent was to keep the salaries of physicians and medical staff private not level executives. Wiggins said any other interpretations are premature. Supervisors say Billy Guice, the attorney who was hired to specifically investigate Singing River's finances, has publicly disagreed with the senator.

“It said any employee in the bill, and that is up to interpretation on what was intended and what it actually says,” said Ross.

WLOX reached out to Wiggins. He chose not to be on camera, but sent us the letter that went to the board of supervisors. It said he is proud of what the bill has accomplished as far requiring community hospitals to put info on a state transparency website, and giving supervisors the power to remove trustees for a cause where before they couldn't. However, after hearing Guice's comments, the senator said he didn't feel like he could add anything more to the conversation.

“In reality it's not going to make a big difference one way or the other. It's just one of those things, the only way to truly know what is going to work is to test it in the court system and see what the judge rules,” said Ross.

Supervisor Harris hopes Wiggins will have a change of heart.

“It needs to be resolved sooner than later.”

Supervisors said there is also some confusion about the removal process of the board of trustees at the health system that they want Wiggins to explain.


Here is the full e-mail Wiggins sent to board members Sunday morning, informing them he would not be attending the meeting:

Dear Gentlemen, earlier this week Melton Harris invited me to come to your meeting on Monday to discuss the Community Hospital legislation that the legislature passed this session and becomes effective in January.  However, as I have just finished reading the most recent Sun Herald article and Mr. Guice's comments concerning the legislation,  I do not feel that I can add anything more to the conversation and therefore I will not be attending the meeting.  It is clear that Mr. Guice values his role as your attorney.   Seeing as how Mr. Guice's legal advice and services have reached upwards of $350,000, and that you also have the board attorney's advice, I would not want to impinge on this attorney-client relationship. As a practicing attorney, I understand the delicateness of this relationship. As Senator for District 52, my duty is to represent my constituents within the 174 member legislature.  I stand by the bill and am proud that with it we have opened up hospital trustee meetings statewide, given you the power to remove trustees for cause where before you had none, required community hospitals statewide to post their information on the state transparency website, provided notice standards for state-governed pension plans like SRHS', and at the same time gave SRHS retirees belief that their government would be open and honest with them.  It is my hope that you and the SRHS trustees can at some point provide a solution to the retirees and the taxpayers of Jackson County.  I stand willing and able to offer whatever assistance I can in my legislative capacity just as I did this past session with your requests on Tidelands funds, the county tourism tax referendum, and the Sheriff's retirees, to name a few.

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