BLACKFOOT, Idaho - The Bingham Memorial Hospital Board of Directors held a news conference Monday to announce the hospital has filed a tort claim against County Commissioner Ladd Carter and Planning and Zoning Chairman Lee Hammett. It also claims our station, reporter Marissa Bodnar and anchor Karole Honas are part of a "media conspiracy."
This is the hospital's response to our station's investigation of continued reports of fraud and corruption by Bingham Memorial Hospital administrators and staff.
The hospital is claiming that Hammett and Carter have a personal vendetta against the board, and in order to take them down created a media conspiracy to put pressure on the prosecutor to start an investigation.
Doctor Clark Allen, chief of staff and Bingham Memorial Board member, took to the podium to claim the following, among other things:
"Hammet and Carter took direct wrongful actions to harm the hospital, and acted pursuant to an agreement with others, including two reporters from KIFI Channel 8 to damage the hospital and deprive it of its legal rights."
The filing also claims "there was no ongoing 'news' investigation – rather, Hammett, with the assistance of two reporters, manufactured more than 10 'news' stories" and that we spaced them out to appear like an investigation.
NPG of Idaho, the parent company of Local News 8, denies the allegation. The station has not reported anything without proper procedures. It is against our policy to allow someone outside our station to dictate the content of our news coverage.
The document claims to be revealing the plot of a conspiracy based on minutes from a May 12 meeting. The minutes do state the meeting's purpose is to work toward removing specific board members.
The hospital claimed that board members were never contacted.
But here's what happened when Honas tried to do just that:
"We will now excuse the board so that Erik (F. Stidham, the hospital lawyer) can take your questions," said Paul Kotter, a spokesman for the hospital, at Monday's news conference.
"Didn't you say the board would be happy to take questions?" asked Honas "Didn't you say in the statement that we tried to call you and all you do is send us to the lawyer so there's been every attempt to talk to admin. Lee? Gordon? Come on."
Honas was talking to Lee Kniffen, the board chairman, and Gordon Arave, who serves on the board. They and the rest of the board filed out quietly and did not respond to Honas.
"That in a nutshell is what we've been dealing with," Honas told the audience.
This document states the claim is only being filed because Bingham Memorial is expecting Hammett and Carter to claim legal protection under the Idaho Tort Claims Act, which Bingham Memorial Attorneys said doesn't apply here.
We have received a comment from county commissioner Ladd Carter.
"I am aware of the tort claim that has been filed," Carter said via email. "I deny the allegations made in the tort claim that there was wrong doing on my part or on the part of anyone else involved. The communications I had with other people were intended to culminate in presenting issues to the BMH Board of Directors. There has been a willingness expressed by the county commissioners to engage in a dialogue with the hospital's board about issues that have been brought to our attention. Obviously this is not a very good sign as to how those discussions are likely to go. I hope I am wrong. Only time will tell. "
Local News 8 has given Bingham Memorial a fair representation of time to respond to the allegations by providing advance notice of stories to air.