Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Denied

A packed cafeteria at Nashville General Hospital January 6. Ministers, hospital staff, five members of the city council, one state representative, and the city property assessor came to talk with hospital officials about the Mayor's proposal to shut down General. None of the Mayor's staff attended. Neither did consultant Kevin Crumbo.

By Tribune Staff

NASHVILLE, TN — The Tennessee Tribune filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with Metro Government last week. The Tribune wanted to know how Mayor Megan Barry came to such an ill-advised decision to close down inpatient medical services at Nashville General Hospital.

The Tribune was informed that The Mayor did so on the advice of financial consultant, Kevin Crumbo, a turnaround specialist with KraftCPAs.  Crumbo is an expert in reorganizing distressed companies. He played a key role in restructuring the debt of the Nashville Symphony after the 2010 flood.

Assistant Metropolitan Attorney Theresa Costonis denied the Tribune’s request to review Crumbo’s consultations with the city.  “As to your request for written communications between Kevin Crumbo and anyone from the Mayor’s office, no such records exist,” wrote Costonis.

While a formal report may not exist, Crumbo has written advisory letters to Jon Cooper, Metro Law Director, and Crumbo reported solely to him. It is improbable Mayor Megan Barry didn’t read at least some of those letters before making public her plan to close inpatient medical services at Nashville General Hospital.  Did Barry talk to Crumbo about his recommendations for the hospital?

Further down the two-page Public Record Request Response Form, another box is checked: “The following state, federal, or other applicable law prohibits disclosure of the requested records:

All the other records you have requested are protected by one or more of the following privileges:

• Rule of Professional Conduct RPC 1.6, Supreme Court Rule 8

• The attorney-client privilege

• The work product privilege

• The deliberative process privilege

“The attorney-client privilege exists when a client shares information with counsel and that information is expected to be confidential. That is not at all what is present in this case. The client here is the public, not Crumbo,” said Attorney Kevin Teets.

Teets said having Crumbo report to Cooper is just a ruse so the consultant’s work can be hidden from public view. Teets said Metro legal policies prohibit any of its attorneys from representing any client other than the city.

Crumbo has a contract with Metro but is working for free. Although that is unusual, Crumbo is involved with a number of nonprofits and he restructured the Contributor newspaper pro bono when it was in danger of closing its operations.

Crumbo’s employer, KraftCPAs is also consulting with Metro about the Mayor’s $9 billion transit plan.

Crumbo has reportedly spent hundreds of hours reviewing Nashville General’s operations and financial records. General Hospital CEO Dr. Joseph Webb said he met Crumbo 1 time. Hospital Authority Chair Dr. Jan Brandes also met 1 time with Crumbo.

What Crumbo missed was the loss of at least $20 million in federal funds General now receives to treat the poor. That money won’t be there if General moves to an outpatient facility because it will no longer be a safety net hospital.

It is not up to the Mayor to decide what to do with Nashville General Hospital. It is a public institution that belongs to all of us and it is wrong- and inappropriate to hide behind attorney-client privilege in order to avoid giving the public all the facts.

Transit is a clear priority of the Barry administration. Just as clearly, General Hospital is not. The Barry administration has played Meharry Medical College against Nashville General Hospital and that has hurt both of them. That has to stop. Withholding financial data, recommendations, and policy options does not serve the best interests of the community, Meharry, or Nashville General.

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