Pend Oreille Hospital District trustee alleges misuse of tax dollars

By Cameron Rasmusson
Reader Staff

A member of the Pend Oreille Hospital District is challenging the board and Bonner General Health over their use of taxpayer dollars.

Dan Rose, who was elected a trustee of the taxing district in 2017, is leading the challenge against the board with representation by attorney Sean. P Smith. He alleges that since 1996, more than $16,800,000 has been mishandled by the board and that trustees have charted a pattern of Idaho Open Meeting Law violations in the process.

Rose and Smith back their allegations with an Oct. 16 letter from the Idaho Attorney General’s Office to Dr. Thomas Lawrence, chairman of the Pend Oreille Hospital District, which expresses concern about the handling of tax dollars.

“(Idaho Code) limits the District’s purpose to acquiring, constructing, improving and maintaining a public hospital or medical clinic within its district for the necessary care and treatment of persons requiring medical services,” the letter, signed by Deputy Attorney General Brett DeLange, reads. “Idaho’s applicable statutes, in our view, do not authorize the District to simply fund a private nonprofit entity.”

“In summary, the District’s funding of Bonner Hospital, in our view, fails to comply with Idaho’s applicable constitutional and statutory provisions,” the letter concludes.

DeLange compares the situation to a case that unfolded against the Pocatello-Chubbuck Auditorium District, which operates under similar statutory authority as the hospital district. The Idaho Supreme Court determined that the district exceeded the authority granted it by transferring public funds to private persons. 

The Idaho Attorney General’s Office declined to comment further on the matter, as it is ongoing.

Rose alleges that in spite of the letter, the Pend Oreille Hospital District has continued to make questionable money transfers to Bonner General Health. He also notes that six of the seven trustees are also hospital board members. According to Rose, his goal is to “expose the conduct of the POHD and to secure a return of the millions of misappropriated taxpayer money.”

“The Bonner County Sheriff, the Bonner County Prosecuting Attorney and the Office of the Idaho Attorney General have all been made aware of the unlawful activity of the POHD,” reads a release issued by Smith. “What actions these offices will take to investigate and prosecute the wrongdoers, or secure a return of the misappropriated funds, remains to be seen.”

At the recommendation of legal counsel, Bonner General Health officials are not commenting on the allegations. 

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