FOX 8 Investigates: Hospital board raised early concerns about consultant

Published: Aug. 8, 2015 at 1:03 AM CDT|Updated: Aug. 8, 2015 at 2:01 AM CDT
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JEFFERSON PARISH, LA (WVUE) - A hospital board raised early concerns about hiring a consultant who's been at the center of a Lee Zurik investigation.

FOX 8 obtained a resolution approved unanimously by the West Jefferson Medical Center Board of Directors in May of last year. It shows there were serious concerns early on about hiring consultant Josh Nemzoff.

Nemzoff is now advising Jefferson Parish on privatization deals at East and West Jefferson hospitals. He's also been at the center of of a Lee Zurik investigation that uncovered the parish has paid Nemzoff nearly $1 million in taxpayer money over the last 18 months, even though he wasn't turning in detailed invoices justifying his work.

"We thought it was a bad idea from the get-go," said Chairman of the West Jefferson Medical Center Board of Directors Harry "Chip" Cahill.

When asked if he still thinks it's a bad idea, Cahill responded, "Yes, I do."

According to the resolution, the West Jefferson Medical Center Board of Directors said they were "gravely concerned" that Nemzoff "has shown himself to be biased and at times unprofessional" toward the hospital board, legal counsel, and toward LCMC, the company that has agreed to pay the parish millions of dollars to lease the hospital.

The board also asked Councilman Paul Johnston, who wanted Nemzoff on the job, to "either participate directly" on the negotiating team "or appoint an objective and unbiased representative."

On Friday we asked Johnston why Nemzoff was hired after the resolution.

"We hired Nemzoff because of his professionalism," Johnston said. "That's his expertise. We needed a financial adviser for the team."

The resolution also says Nemzoff "submitted a proposal to be the lead negotiator" on the hospital, deal but an evaluation committee ranked him last out of five candidates.

The board also said Nemzoff had a "conflict of interest" in serving on the negotiating team "due to his bias" toward LCMC and West Jefferson Medical Center, since he submitted a proposal and was not the selected professional.

"This deal has taken a real long time, and I think it's because of the negotiation that goes back and forth, and I think if we just had one negotiator it would have gone much quicker and it would be done by now. I don't know if there was any real need to involve him," Cahill said.

But, despite that scathing resolution from the hospital board - as well as the votes of three other council members against his hiring - Nemzoff would land the lucrative consulting contract. The parish is currently paying him $650 an hour on the taxpayer's dime to advise them on the hospital deals.

Reporter: "Don't you think, though, that the taxpayers have a right to know that every hour he is billing is accounted for?"

Johnston: "I agree with you 100 percent, and I think he needs to be accountable for everything he does, every hours he does."

Johnston says Nemzoff will now be required to explain in detail every hour he bills the parish by providing back-up documentation showing what he did on the job and who he talked to.

We reached out to Nemzoff for comment about this story, but he refused to talk.

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