JEFFERSON PARISH, LA (WVUE) - The Jefferson Parish inspector general has released a scathing report about how the parish handled lease negotiations for West Jefferson Medical Center, including the hiring of a high-paid consultant who was at the center of a Lee Zurik investigation.
In a more than 400-page report, the IG lays out "several areas of concern" with how the Jefferson Parish Council handled lease negotiations for West Jefferson Medical Center from April 2014 to September 2015. That includes paying two consultants nearly $4 million in taxpayer money to handle those negotiations.
Inspector General David McClintock said the council failed to comply with its own ordinance that sets a "fixed maximum amount of compensation" when they paid controversial consultant Josh Nemzoff, more than $1 million, even though he signed an agreement that his services would not exceed $625,000. The report said that contract was later amended, and the parish removed the maximum amount.
McClintock added that the parish paid legal consultant Hogan Lovells nearly $3 million, even though the parish didn't have a contract with the firm. The report goes on to say that had the council followed it's own ordinance, it would have resulted in "substantial savings."
Nemzoff was hired to advise the parish on privatization deals at East Jefferson and West Jefferson hospitals. He was at the center of a FOX 8 investigation that uncovered that the parish was paying him $650 an hour, totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars, even though he wasn't turning in detailed invoices to document his work. After that investigation aired, the parish required Nemzoff to provide more detail.
The IG said while Hogan Lovells' invoices contained adequate detail and documentation, Nemzoff's did not.
This spring, the Jefferson Parish Council called for a forensic audit of West Jefferson Medical Center's finances. To speed up the process, the council voted unanimously to bring Nemzoff back to the project instead of hiring a new consultant. The IG said Council Chairwoman Cynthia Lee-Sheng was the only council member to respond to his report. In a letter to the inspector general, Lee-Sheng said the council addressed his concerns when they entered into a new agreement with Nemzoff.
A spokesman for Jefferson Parish said "the parish is aware of the Inspector General's report and we are working to make sure things are done accordingly."
We have reached out to Hogan Lovells and Nemzoff about this story, but they have not gotten back to us yet.