MONTROSE COUNTY – The legal wranglings between Montrose County and the Montrose Memorial Hospital Board of Trustees may not be over.
At a meeting held in Nucla on Dec. 11, the Montrose County Commissioners voted to retain Polsinelli Law Firm of Denver as its special counsel in possible future legal actions with the MMH Board of Trustees.
The move to retain legal representation comes after the MMH trustees approved a motion in October allowing their attorney, David Masters, to move forward with a lawsuit if commissioner-appointed trustee Richard Harding’s refusal to provide a social security number for a background check is not resolved.
According to the commissioners’ statement issued Tuesday, the move to retain the Polsinelli Law Firm is a preventative measure should the trustees take legal action.
“This is a preventative measure following statements from the Board of Trustees regarding potential legal action against the county,” Montrose County Media Relations Manager Katie Yergensen said on Tuesday.
According to county documents and the letter of engagement from Polsinelli, the scope of representation is to investigate and provide legal advice to the commissioners regarding the county’s affiliation and relationship with the Montrose Memorial Hospital. At the end of the investigation’s initial phase, according to the documents, attorneys from Polsinelli will discuss the legal options available to the commissioners. Should the commissioners approve one or more of those legal options, an amendment to their agreement will then be discussed.
It is expected that the cost of representation from Polsinelli will range from $450 an hour to $480 an hour with a possible 10 percent discount.
Harding was appointed to the MMH Board of Trustees by the commissioners a year ago. Since that time, Harding has refused to provide his social security number for a background check. That refusal, according to Masters, is out of compliance with a Board of Trustees bylaw provision that was adopted in 2009 and puts the hospital at risk of being an eligible Medicaid and Medicare provider.
“Medicaid and Medicare providers have to undergo screenings and people in control positions have to submit to background checks,” Masters said in October. The worst-case scenario, Masters suggested, is that Montrose Memorial Hospital could lose its eligibility to be a Medicaid and Medicare provider, which brings in 50 percent of the hospital’s income.
Digging his heels in, Harding has said he has no obligation to hand over his social security number.
Possible legal action by the trustees or Montrose County suggest the legal fight over who controls the hospital is not yet over. In July 2011, a district judge ruled the Montrose Memorial Hospital Board of Directors was within its rights to lease the hospital to a nonprofit.