Suit: Hospital takeover process too secret

Suit: Hospital takeover process too secret
Thursday, January 11, 2007 Jersey Journal

HOBOKEN - An activist is suing the Hoboken Municipal Hospital Authority and the city, alleging that the ongoing transfer of St. Mary Hospital from its present owners has been less than transparent.

Hoboken resident Elizabeth Mason filed the lawsuit in Superior Court in early December, alleging the defendants did not provide adequate notice of two meetings - one in September, the other in October - as required under the Sunshine laws.

"If the suit does nothing else than to require or encourage the board to be more transparent and follow guidelines in spirit and in a factual way, it will be a great benefit to the community," said Mason, president of New Jersey Foundation For Open Government.

Notices were given only in The Jersey Journal, when the law requires notices to be posted in two local publications, Mason alleges.

HMHA officials acknowledge the meetings were not publicized properly, but argue if minutes are provided to members of the public - which has been done - the problem has been corrected.

Mason argues that the law should have been followed, and transcripts - not only minutes - should be made available.

But HMHA Interim Executive Director George Crimmins said the meetings were not taped.

According to Hoboken resident Bob Du Val, who attended the meeting held on Oct. 25, a tape recorder was being used.

Mason has received minutes of the Oct. 25 caucus, outlining the budget presentation by Ronald DeVito, the HMHA's chief financial officer.

But the suit alleges that transcripts of the caucus session, discussing the budget and finances for the soon to be called Hoboken University Medical Center, have been withheld or destroyed.

Crimmins, who is named as a defendant in the suit, denied there were any tapes or transcripts of the meeting, saying the authority does not own the equipment to make recordings.

He also said that extensive minutes of the caucus and other meetings were made public. Crimmins also said board members had only received a briefing on the hospital's management budget at the Oct. 25 caucus.

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