Grand jury could be on PV's horizon Push now on for closer look at now closed hospital

This is the front of Pauls Valley's hospital before it closed. A petition drive could come soon asking for an investigation into the finances and management of the hospital when it was still open.

An exact accounting of monies related to Pauls Valley's now closed hospital is at the center of a proposed petition drive calling for a grand jury to investigate.

Leading the charge is Skip Mitchell of Lindsay, who believes there are still too many unanswered questions about what he says is the management of the local hospital before it closed back in mid-October.

Another main target of a planned grand jury request is the city of Pauls Valley being the licensed owner of 28 nursing homes in the state.

Mitchell's top concern for a grand jury is to move toward an investigative audit of the city's finances related to the hospital.

“There are two things we want to find out – information on the hospital and nursing homes with loans, mismanagement and litigation,” Mitchell says.

“The bulk of it is financial. Where did $7 million from the loans go for the hospital,” he said, adding the city's overall debt from the hospital is closer to $9 million.

“I want a specific account of the money owed to the banks on behalf of the city.”

For now nothing is official as Mitchell says lawyers are drawing up the grand jury petition.

He plans to unveil that petition at a town hall type meeting scheduled for a 7 p.m. start on Jan. 12 at the PV High School auditorium.

There the plan is to begin a drive to collect at least 500 signatures of voters living within Pauls Valley's city limits, according to Mitchell.

The idea is to call for a grand jury to be convened right here in Garvin County.

Mitchell said he's now involved in all this after first being approached by some former hospital employees to see if there was anything he could do to help.

That's now led him and others to move toward drafting a petition asking for the closed-door jury to look at the possibility of mismanagement of the hospital and an accounting of funds, namely what happened to millions in dollars loaned to the city of Pauls Valley over the past few years.

If a petition is eventually completed it would first go to Garvin County's district judge. After a review the judge can send it back for changes before the petition then goes to the election board for a verification of signatures.

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Pauls Valley Mayor Gary Alfred says although he doesn't know anything about how a grand jury works he's confident the city council and hospital authority were in the right every step of the way.

“Anybody can say or do whatever they want,” Alfred said about the possible petition drive.

“I have confidence nothing is there. The UPL money or anything we've done with the loans or the hospital – I have faith in our legal counsel,” he said, referring to City Attorney Jay Carlton and the nursing home licenses.

“About 99.9 percent of the time we had our legal counsel sitting right there for every decision.

“I have confidence there has not been any wrongdoing. I don't have any anxiety about anything being done wrong.”

(More on the plans for a grand jury petition drive will come in the Dec. 12 edition of the PV Democrat.)

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