Dougherty Commission holds called executive meeting to discuss litigation

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ALBANY — The Dougherty County Commission met Tuesday in a called meeting for an executive session to discuss pending litigation.

That closed meeting was expected to last awhile because the county is involved in three active lawsuits: a suit before Fulton Superior Court in regard to the Lee County Medical Center, interim County Manager Mike McCoy’s $3 million suit against four commissioners, and a class-action opioid lawsuit.

On Thursday, the county filed suit against the Georgia Department of Community Health, its Commissioner, Frank Berry, and Executive Director of Heath Planning Rachel King. The suit challenges a “DCH regulation that lacks any authority and seeks mandamus to compel the commissioner to enforce the certificate of need laws as enacted by the General Assembly.”

Prior to going into executive session, commissioners Ewell Lyle and Lamar Hudgins said they have no idea of how the intracounty dispute would turn out.

“I want to go on the record now and say that I voted against this lawsuit,” Hudgins said. “If Lee County wants a hospital, let them have it. We should not be messing around in another county’s affairs.”

Also on Tuesday, the Georgia Alliance of Community Hospitals dismissed its lawsuit challenging the DCH regulation.

“Today the Georgia Alliance of Community Hospitals dismissed its lawsuit challenging the DCH regulation that was utilized by LCMC OPCO LLC d/b/a Lee County Medical Center, to develop a new, 60-bed hospital in Lee County, Georgia without showing the need for a new hospital or the impact of the new hospital on existing providers,” GACH President and CEO Monty Veazey said in a statement released Tuesday afternoon. “Because the validity of the regulation at issue will be decided in connection with separate litigation between Doctors Hospital of Augusta and DCH involving the proposed new general acute care hospital in Columbia County, Georgia, GACH determined that it is in the best interests of its members to devote the association’s resources to other ongoing initiatives to protect safety net hospitals.”

Veazey added that he and the GACH remained committed to the certificate of need process.

“GACH remains committed to preserving the integrity of the CON process and, going forward, will continue to challenge efforts of for-profit companies to weaken the CON program or otherwise circumvent the CON goals and objectives of avoiding unnecessary duplication of services and planning for health care services based on objective, community-focused standards,” Veazey said. “The CON program remains one of the most critical elements to the stability of Georgia’s entire network of care. This critical tool helps the state manage the availability and financial survival of safety net hospitals while ensuring access to emergency departments, advanced treatment and routine health care needs for all patients, regardless of ability to pay.”

Despite being named by the Carl Vinson Institute as the “most qualified candidate” to replace Richard Crowdis, McCoy was still turned down for the county administrator job. Albany attorney Maurice King, who represents McCoy, said after the vote that John Hayes and fellow commissioners Gloria Gaines, Anthony Jones and Clinton Johnson would be named as defendants in a lawsuit “in their individual and professional capacities” for what King called “retaliatory” action taken against McCoy.

While the permanent job status of McCoy remains in limbo, as of now, he remains the interim county administrator.

On April 2, Blasingame, Burch, Garrard & Ashley PC of Athens, which partnered with Albany firm Flynn & Phillips in a representation proposal sent to the commission, was selected to represent the county by a 6-1 vote in an opioid suit that will go into the federal court system, specifically to the Northern District of Ohio.

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