Editorials

The people responsible for SRHS debacle just walk away

KAREN NELSON/SUN HERALD/2015Retiree Brenda Eiland and others protested and gave a voice to their fight to find out what happened to their money.
KAREN NELSON/SUN HERALD/2015Retiree Brenda Eiland and others protested and gave a voice to their fight to find out what happened to their money.

Like it or not, it appears those responsible for the Singing River Health System debacle will walk away scot-free.

District Attorney Tony Lawrence said last year he presented all the evidence in the case to a Jackson County grand jury that didn't return any indictments.

That's a head-scratcher in light of what we know.

Take Maury Thompson, who testified under oath in federal court last week that SRHS sent him statements indicating it was contributing to Thompson's pension plan when it knew it wasn't.

"That's mail fraud. Blatant mail fraud," was Thompson's assessment of SRHS' dealings with its retirees and employees. The federal judge hearing the case reminded everyone he was running a fairness hearing, not an investigation.

He said any evidence of a crime belonged next door at the U.S. Attorney's Office not in his courtroom.

Lawrence also said the FBI assisted with the investigation that ended with no action by the grand jury in January 2015. We would hope that federal authorities would take another look.

As it stands, the criminal justice system has lost a lot of credibility, particularly among those who aren't enamored of the proposed settlement.

Even Jim Reeves, one of the attorneys who favor the settlement, said he was "surprised someone hasn't yet gotten into criminal trouble over this."

We don't know precisely what went wrong at SRHS. We haven't heard from Chris Anderson, who was head of SRHS when things went south for the pension plan. And, if the settlement is approved, SRHS and Jackson County will be released from liability.

SRHS could have terminated the pension plan at any time simply by notifying its employees and retirees. SRHS instead chose to mislead those employees and retirees by telling them it was putting money into the plan when it wasn't.

The employees and retirees deserve to know why. We need a prosecutor with courage to find out for them.

This editorial represents the views of the Sun Herald editorial board. Opinions of columnists and cartoonists are their own.

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