County-Appointed Trustee Richard Harding Refuses to Supply Number
MONTROSE – While no lawsuit has yet been filed against Montrose County on behalf of the Montrose Memorial Hospital Board of Trustees, on Monday the trustees approved a motion that would allow their attorney to move forward with a lawsuit if Trustee Richard Harding’s refusal to provide a social security number for a background check is not resolved.
According to attorney David Masters, the trustees’ legal representative, Harding has refused to supply his social security number for a background check ever since he was appointed by the Montrose Board of County Commissioners to a trustee seat last December. That refusal, Masters said, 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. The trustees voted Monday, 4-1, to allow Masters to proceed with a lawsuit if needed. Harding cast the dissenting vote.
“Medicaid and Medicare providers have to undergo screenings, and people in control positions have to submit to background checks,” Masters said Tuesday, adding that Harding’s refusal to submit a social security number is “a real serious issue that we are trying to work out.”
The worst-case scenario, Masters suggested, is that Montrose Memorial Hospital could lose its eligibility to be a Medicaid and Medicare provider.
“That’s 50 percent of the hospital income,” he said.
Harding, in response to the request to disclose his social security number, said he believes he is under no obligation to do so, and has asked Montrose County staff to investigate whether he is required to do so. At the Sept. 16 meeting of the Montrose County Commissioners, County Manager Rick Eckert said his investigation concluded that the board of trustees has no legal basis for requiring a social security number.
Harding said on Wednesday that according to his research on the matter, the Office of Inspector General at the Department of Health and Human Services, the Joint Hospital of Accreditation Commission and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment all state he doesn’t have to provide his social security number.
“You know what they say?” Harding said. “I don’t have to have it down.”
What is Harding’s reason for not complying with the trustees’ policy?
“As you are well aware, the National Security Agency has infringed on people’s privacy to a severe degree, and in my opinion, my social security number is unnecessary,” Harding said. “As a trustee, my job is to oversee the hospital lease and to make sure the hospital is in proper order. This is a very small role. I am not an employee, I am not a contractor, I receive no goods or services from the hospital.”
Harding went on to say that he agreed to sign a form to allow a background check, and on that form, providing a social security number was marked “optional.” He questioned the board of trustees’ distrust of him.
“Why the hell are they so afraid of me?” he asked. “It appears they are scared to death of me, and they have the right to be. I am a very knowledgeable individual. Having worked for the Internal Revenue Service and being an accountant by trade, I am probably the most knowledgeable person on that board to oversee that lease.”
Masters said that no lawsuit has been filed, and that the other trustees on the hospital board wish to find a solution to this problem. “As their attorney, I wanted authorization from the trustees to be able to file a lawsuit if I think the timing is right and the issues are right for taking that kind of action,” Masters said. “We are trying to avoid it. We don’t need the expense and aggravation of a lawsuit.”