Reality Check: court battles

The vote on Issue 64, whatever its outcome, will not mean Lakewood has to go to court. But one side in the debate over 64 and Lakewood Hospital has shown a consistent preference for the courtroom.

In 2015, Lakewood residents concerned by mismanagement of our publicly owned hospital called on city and hospital officials to enforce the terms of its lease to the Cleveland Clinic. Thousands of citizens supported the call for officials to defend Lakewood’s rights throughout the lease’s remaining decade. Local officials declined even to attempt doing so. Citizens then reluctantly suggested that they would seek judicial enforcement of our rights if necessary—but delayed the final step of a court filing for several more weeks in hope that City Hall would reconsider.

Since then, citizen plaintiffs have made every effort to minimize the burden on the courts and taxpaying public. Five residents represent thousands of other Lakewoodites, in order to avoid the avalanche of costly paperwork which would have accompanied a larger official number of plaintiffs. In December, cleveland.com reported the judge advising an out-of-court resolution:

“I’m of the opinion that some meaningful mediation would be helpful here,” [Judge John] O’Donnell told the attorneys. “I’m of that opinion, but I can’t force it.” O’Donnell said if the parties agreed, he or another judge could mediate or the parties could hire an outside mediator.

City and hospital officials declined to explore this option. Citizens’ legal counsel, by contrast, “said he would be open to mediation.” In his exact words, “We’re always willing to talk and try to resolve matters.”

That’s worth keeping in mind, whenever someone tries to claim that Issue 64’s opponents want to keep the city tied up in court.

Skindell files Open Meetings Act Lawsuit

Michael J. Skindell today announced that he has filed action in the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas (MICHAEL J. SKINDELL v. MARY LOUISE MADIGAN, ET AL., Civil Case Number CV-15-855961) alleging that Lakewood City Council violated Ohio’s Open Meeting Act when the council held multiple closed meetings to deliberate and draft an agreement to close Lakewood Hospital. Skindell is currently the State Senator representing Lakewood in the Ohio Legislature.

The Open Meetings Act requires that all public bodies take official action and conduct all deliberations only in open meetings where the public can attend and observe. R.C. § 121.22(A). The law allows a public body to hold an “executive session”, i.e., closed meeting, on certain matters including purchase of property or sale of property in some competitive bidding situations. R.C. § 121.22(G) and (J). Official action by a public body which violates the provision of the Open Meeting Act is invalid. R.C. § 121.22(H).

In the action alleging that city council violated the law, Michael Skindell cites  the fact that reasons supplied for the executive sessions — [g]eneral conversation about the Letter of Intent submitted to Council by the Lakewood Hospital Association (LHA), the Lakewood Hospital Foundation (LHF), and Cleveland Clinic (referred 1/20/15), including the potential purchase of property; the sale of real or personal property by competitive bid if disclosure of the information would result in a competitive advantage to the person whose personal, private interest is adverse to the general public interest; and/or pending litigation — were not proper topics for closed meetings. In addition, matters discussed were beyond the reasons in the notice. Skindell points out that although there were reasons noticed for the closed session such as purchase of property by the city, and sale of property by competitive bid, there was no purchase of property or sale of property by competitive bidding as part of the agreement.

Michael Skindell stated: “During my eighteen years in public office I have always advocated for transparency and accountability in government. This action against Lakewood City Council is to correct, in what I perceive, an abuse of the public trust. Citizens have a right to know what their government is up to and how they reached their decisions. It is my belief that Lakewood City Council violated the law in reaching their agreement involving the closing of Lakewood Hospital. I have a responsibility to the people to ensure that government is open and accountable to the public.”

Judge Stuart Friendman has scheduled a hearing for Monday, December 21, 2015, to consider a Skindell’s motion for a preliminary injunction.

Kucinich Asks FTC to Save Lakewood Hospital; Seeks Investigation

Former U.S. Congressman Dennis Kucinich today filed a massive 80-count declaration with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, that asks the FTC to help save Lakewood Hospital by opening an investigation into the planned closing of the hospital by the Cleveland Clinic Foundation (CCF).

Kucinich’s action is welcome news to the Save Lakewood Hospital group because it expands documentation of the plot by the Clinic to shut down the 108-year-old community hospital, said vice chairman of Save Lakewood Hospital Tom Monahan. “It is a massive, well-reasoned, well-researched document that validates all of the efforts of those residents who have worked so hard to save our biggest asset and largest employer”, he said.

Kucinich asks that the FTC take legal action to protect Lakewood Hospital from being closed and merging all of Lakewood’s assets into the Clinic system.

Marguerite Harkness, chairperson of Save Lakewood Hospital said: “Mr. Kucinich researched additional resources that our investigators had not yet pursued and they show how the Clinic’s decanting plan to eradicate Lakewood Hospital was in the planning stages for a long time.”

The former Congressman cited the Letter of Intent (LOI) that is being used to structure a new Master Agreement as a self-serving document between the CCF and the Lakewood Hospital Association (LHA). He points out that the LOI calls for the LHA to use its money to tear down the hospital, through language that was approved by the LHA and three of its members: Mayor Mike Summers, lame duck council president Mary Louise Madigan and councilman Tom Bullock.

Kucinich served Lakewood for two years as a state senator and 16 years as a Congressman.

The FTC filing is available online.

Kucinich hosts press conference, forum

Former congressman Dennis Kucinich addressed several representatives of local media Monday morning, in a press conference in front of Lakewood Hospital.

Distributing copies of the “decanting” plan and additional documents recently revealed in court, Kucinich asserted that Cleveland Clinic intentionally misled the city of Lakewood with promises of a new hospital. Urging Lakewood’s people and leadership to consider the new information becoming available, he called on the city to file a brief in support of the lawsuit for damages to Lakewood Hospital.

Kucinich also hosted a community forum in the evening, at the Lakewood main library. One attendee has posted photos here, and cleveland.com has a brief story about the forum here.

The documents Kucinich presented are available online at the end of this cleveland.com article.

WKYC and Fox8 have posted stories about the press conference; the Lakewood Observer has a draft transcript of Kucinich’s remarks, and photos.

Huron Consulting report, other news

Huron Consulting, commissioned by the city to study Lakewood Hospital, has completed its final report. Certain of its observations have generated much discussion, among them:

Huron’s John Bodine spoke to city council about the findings on Monday. As reported at cleveland.com, Dr. George Khuri, a physician at Lakewood Hospital and a board member of Premier Physicians stated that the group of independent physicians is “more committed than ever to Lakewood Hospital and the city of Lakewood.” Look for more analysis and responses to the Huron report in the days ahead.

In the meantime…Read More

“Decanting” Lakewood Hospital

On June 21, 2012, three years before the plan to close and raze Lakewood Hospital was revealed to the public and beneficiaries of the charitable trust, Cleveland Clinic Foundation (CCF) representatives met to discuss the decanting plan of Lakewood Hospital. (Ex. 2).

Under the decanting plan,

  • 30-45 beds from Lakewood Hospital’s nursing unit will be moved to Fairview Hospital;
  • 16 intensive care unit beds at Lakewood Hospital will be moved to Fairview Hospital;
  • Fairview Hospital will absorb 700-800 births per year from Lakewood Hospital;
  • 7,000-8,000 Lakewood Hospital inpatient emergency department visits will be moved to Fairview Hospital;
  • 1,315-1,773 inpatient surgeries per year will be moved from Lakewood Hospital to Fairview Hospital;
  • Lakewood Hospital physicians will be moved to Fairview Hospital and other CCF wholly-owned hospitals;
  • 12 geropsych beds will be moved from Lakewood Hospital to Lutheran Hospital;
  • Lakewood Hospital’s vascular laboratory will be moved to Fairview Hospital;
  • some Lakewood Hospital inpatient beds will be moved to Fairview Hospital;
  • and inpatient surgery and the catheterization laboratory at Lakewood Hospital will be moved to Fairview Hospital. (Ex. 1).

All of these services, employees, and equipment that have been moved and will continue to be moved away from Lakewood Hospital are City assets. More importantly, those assets belong to a charitable trust for the charitable purpose of providing high quality health care to the third party beneficiaries of the trust: City taxpayers and residents, Lakewood Hospital employees, and the general public.

The need for these medical services, including inpatient surgery, is demonstrated by CCF’s Master Plan for Fairview Hospital showing Lakewood Hospital’s 1,773 surgery cases being transferred (i.e. decanted) to CCF’s wholly-owned Fairview Hospital.

Read more here: 2015.07.31.01.Reply in Support of PI w Exhibits-2

What’s the alternative?

Proponents of razing Lakewood Hospital and approving the Cleveland Clinic letter of intent would have us believe that there is no other option on the table. “Where’s their alternative,” they ask—though only rhetorically, because if they were actually to ask Save Lakewood Hospital they would receive an answer:

There is a viable alternative. Insist on the Clinic living up to its responsibilities.

The Cleveland Clinic signed a lease to run Lakewood Hospital, and provide specific services, through 2026. It’s now 2015; much can happen in a decade. Therefore, even setting aside serious doubts about the sincerity with which the mayor and hospital association actually tried to secure a new partner, there is no reason to assume that “there’s no alternative to the Clinic” is a final, unalterable fact.

Read More

What’s going on this summer

There is no summer vacation from the work to save Lakewood Hospital. Here’s a little of what’s going on as July gets rolling:

  • City Council President Mary Louise Madigan has decided against seeking re-election. With Eric Deamer also exiting the race, it looks almost inevitable that Ward Four will be represented by Dan O’Malley, who told NEOMG’s correspondent that “he strongly believes some sort of hospital with inpatient beds should remain in the city.”
  • The lawsuit filed by Chris DeVito and other supporters of Save Lakewood Hospital is making its way to trial in a relatively brisk fashion. At this stage, little formal media coverage is likely, but judging by recent documentary investigation posted at the Lakewood Observer forum, shining a light on the full history of the Letter Of Intent may reveal quite a lot.
  • Lakewood’s weather forecast for July 4, 2015 looks gorgeous. Please join us for the parade; participants will gather from 9 a.m. and the parade begins at 10.

Lawsuit filed against Clinic, city of Lakewood

Arguments over the future—and past—of health care in Lakewood are going to court. At a press conference this morning, attorney Chris DeVito announced that he has filed suit against the Cleveland Clinic, the government of Lakewood and others, on behalf of the people of Lakewood.

DeVito is seeking $400 million in damages, on behalf of Lakewood, for breach of contract, fraud, and other harm resulting from mismanagement of the city-owned hospital. In addition to compensation for damages, the lawsuit calls for Cleveland Clinic to comply with all terms of its lease of Lakewood Hospital, currently effective through 2026.

Based on Mayor Summers’s insistence that the Clinic’s letter of intent, which would break that lease, requires a response from Lakewood as soon as possible, DeVito hopes Judge John P. O’Donnell will expedite the suit’s path to court.

Further details, and a copy of the lawsuit itself, are available at cleveland.com.

City of Lakewood faces lawsuit for hospital management

Attorney Christopher M. DeVito has called on the City of Lakewood to defend its contractual rights, under its lease agreement with Cleveland Clinic, rather than cooperating with the Clinic to liquidate Lakewood Hospital.

Supported by Senator Michael Skindell and other Save Lakewood Hospital members, DeVito addressed local news media at a press conference outside the hospital Tuesday morning. DeVito explained that he has written Lakewood Law Director Kevin Butler, calling on him to file a lawsuit on or before May 1 to “preserve and ensure the continued operation of Lakewood Hospital for the benefit of the Lakewood community.”

In the event the City fails to file a lawsuit by the May 1 deadline, DeVito intends to file a lawsuit on behalf of the residents and taxpayers of the City of Lakewood.

Read More