Decision Disappoints Montrose County Commissioners
MONTROSE – On Thursday, the Colorado Court of Appeals issued its decision affirming Judge Herron’s ruling upholding the hospital lease to Montrose Memorial Hospital, Inc.
In reaching its decision, according to a Montrose County press release issued on Thursday afternoon, the Court of Appeals refused to second guess the trial court’s factual findings concerning the Montrose Memorial Hospital Board of Trustees’/MMHI Board of Directors’ compliance with open meetings laws. The Court of Appeals also found that the hospital could lease cash as part of its statutory authority to “lease the hospital,” and did not address the county’s argument that the trustees inappropriately transferred its governance obligations of a public hospital to a private, non-profit entity.
The Montrose Board of County Commissioners is disappointed that the court avoided this issue regarding the dramatic change of governance of the hospital, a public asset, by leasing the hospital to a private, nonprofit corporation. This lease transferred all cash assets of the hospital to the corporation for a period of 50 years, leaving effectively no authority to the statutorily appointed hospital Trustees or the public to oversee any expenditure of the hospital assets, according to the press release.
The commissioners felt it important to protect the hospital as a county public hospital under state law and as a county public asset and remains concerned as to what will become of that asset over the next 50 years. Nevertheless, the commissioners believe they have done everything they needed and could do as fiduciaries of county assets to try to protect the hospital and county public assets.
“There was a concern early on that there needed to be a second set of eyes to review the Judge’s ruling,” Commissioner Gary Ellis said. “ The Court of Appeals upheld the lower court’s decision and as far as I am concerned, that settles the issue. I am not interested in any further appeals. I think we need to focus on other large issues facing the County.”
While disappointed in the court’s ruling, the commissioners said they respect the appeals court decision and continue to be willing to work with the Hospital Board of Directors as well as the Hospital Board of Trustees to ensure the availability of first rate medical care for the public and protection of a valuable county public asset.
“I’m glad we have a final resolution in the hospital issue,” Commissioner David White said. “I would hope the Hospital Board of Directors will operate in the public’s best interest and work hard to allay the concerns of citizens in the privatization of a public hospital.”