Hospital consultant pays for ad blasting council members

Hospital consultant pays for ad blasting council members

JEFFERSON PARISH, LA (WVUE) - A high-paid hospital consultant who's been at the center of a Lee Zurik investigation has taken out a newspaper ad blasting members of the Jefferson Parish Council.

Consultant Josh Nemzoff paid for a full-page ad to be published in the Times-Picayune Wednesday. In it, he accuses some council members 
of costing taxpayers $430 million.

"That's absolutely absurd," Council Chairman Chris Roberts said.

Jefferson Parish has paid Nemzoff nearly $1 million in taxpayer money over the last 18 months to advise the parish on privatization deals at East and West Jefferson hospitals. Nemzoff is taking home $650 and hour even though our investigation uncovered that he wasn't turning in detailed invoices justifying his work.

In Wednesday's published letter, Nemzoff accuses Roberts and Councilman Elton Lagasse of driving a corporation away from the bid process, saying, "in doing so they cheated Jefferson Parish out of a bid that was $430 million more than the next closest competitor. One has to wonder to this day, what was their motive."

"I think it's ridiculous. Bottom line is that this certainly doesn't help to get the transaction closed. Nonetheless, I find it very suspect that these issues are raised now when he's questioned about his billing," Roberts said.

FOX 8 obtained an email Nemzoff sent to Roberts in February, in which was much different. In the email, he praised Roberts' work on the hospital deal, saying, "congrats on getting your deal done." Nemzoff goes on to say, "this is a fantastic deal for you guys. Simply amazing. Let's get the next one done."

"At times I question whether or not he wants to see this deal close or not, and I think issues such as what he did today, certainly a greater indication that that would be the case," Roberts said.

Nemzoff also blasts the chairman of the West Jefferson Medical Center board of directors, saying he signed a letter of intent with LCMC, the hospital group that has agreed to pay the parish millions to lease the hospital, without telling the council.

"Just another crazy red herring that's thrown out," WJMC Board of Directors Chairman Chip Cahill, said. "That's nothing but a distraction. That's fictitious. I had authority by both the council resolution and by a board resolution to sign a document that he said that I signed without informing everybody that I signed."

In his ad, Nemzoff also says, "I was hired to do a job, and that's what I've done. I am not sure what Roberts and Lagasse were hired to do, but in most organizations when you make a decision that loses the company (in this case taxpayers) $430 million, you get fired."

We reached out to Lagasse, but he has not returned our request for comment. Lagasse had asked that the council withhold Nemzoff's payments until back-up documentation justifying his work was provided. At a council meeting Wednesday, Lagasse withdrew that resolution after the parish attorney said she was confident they have the documentation they need.

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