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The Rinaldi Report

       by Peter Rinaldi



         Natchez Regional's foolish politics never seem to get better. Two weeks ago, creditors objected to the hospital's bankruptcy filings, saying that Regional's own figures for revenues, expenses and cash flow could not be trusted, as the hospital's management had misstated the numbers on numerous occasions.

         While the bankruptcy judge may acknowledge the creditors' objections, in the end, the hospital's plan will be accepted in one modified form or another because there is no other realistic choice. Unsecured creditors should be a bit worried, as the hospital has revealed it continues to hemorrhage money. The only way all the secured and unsecured loans and invoices will be paid is if supervisors tag taxpayers with a big bill. While initially that looked like $2 million, the timeline for a sale continues to stretch out and the hospital continued to lose money. It could cost taxpayers $3.5-$5 million or more to dig the hospital trustees and the supervisors out of the hole they dug themselves. That's at least five mills. Community Health Systems still plans to go ahead and purchase the Regional as early as the end of September.

         The affair is not without touches of comedy. It was revealed that just before the bankruptcy filing, hospital attorney Walter Brown submitted invoices and was paid $123,000 for services rendered. Brown had to hustle quickly to get paid, otherwise he could be listed as an unsecured creditor. It's always best to be first in the buffet line.
         Readers have been asking us if there will be fall-out from the Regional debacle. I don't believe that county judge candidate Walt Brown's campaign will be seriously harmed by his father's (Walter Brown) long-term machinations and intrigue. Of course, the stupidity, dishonesty and baloney around Regional over the years won't help the son either.
         Even though several boards of supervisors deserve major blame for the Natchez Regional debacle, it's unlikely the Teflon-supervisor, Darryl Grennell, will suffer any rejection from voters. He can raise taxes, go on fancy trips, spend too much, borrow too much, cover up employees' stealing, all with impunity. Voters are likely to give a pass to newly elected supervisors Angela Hutchins, Calvin Butler, and David Carter, too. They didn't do anything to make the situation better, but most of the damage done to Regional was done before they took office.

         The same pass may not be given to Dist. 1's Mike Lazarus. Lazarus has been on the board three terms now and has personally given out misinformation about the hospital and the financial rebuild that never happened. He has been a close political ally of attorney Brown, admittedly more out of fear of retribution than love of policy. Lazarus got elected on conservative credentials, promising to be a taxpayers' advocate. Those promises haven't been kept.

         Lazarus may be the only supervisor to garner direct voter blame for the loss of Regional, the coming bailout and the loss of 200+ hospital jobs during his tenure. His "mouth of the South," personality can both help and hurt him in a re-election battle.

         Dist. 1 can also be contentious. Voters are always talking about who should run against Mike. But Lazarus has become a good politician in his three terms and has made friends with many people who initially did not support him. Somberly, Lazarus admitted that the Regional fiasco and staking an additional five mills to guarantee hospital debt was 'a bitter pill to swallow.'

         The promises by supervisors, Regional trustees and hospital management were truly hollow, lies and baloney, shoveled like stinky manure to the public for years in an attempt to mislead purposely and avoid either collective or individual responsibility.
        For all five supervisors, add the apparent problem of buying IP-Rentech for over $9 million and they should be in re-election trouble. But they're not. They seem to be safe in their seats.

         The voters may accept the incumbents' mantra that they're good people doing a good job and bad things happened because of circumstances out of their control.

        In reality, the performance of the Adams County Board of Supervisors has been woeful with major mistakes in judgment. But there is simply little political price to pay for incompetence in handling the Regional and IP-Rentech deals. Voters accept their leaders' failures as just plain normal. Supervisors are supposed to make big mistakes.

        Borrowing from the W.C. Fields quip, supervisors could joke, "We spent half our money on loans for Natchez Regional and buying the vacant IP plant. The other half we wasted."

       Voters get what they vote for. That's the way it goes.





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