Former bosses testify at trial of ex-UMC chief


Clark County managers from past and present dominated the testimony Wednesday in the misconduct trial of former University Medical Center chief Lacy Thomas.

Thom Reilly, who retired in 2006, and his successor, Virginia Valentine, took the witness stand and spoke about their time as Thomas' boss and some of the issues that arose during his three-year tenure at the county's only public hospital.

Valentine, who supervised Thomas for about five months before firing him, said he rejected her authority early on and canceled scheduled meetings.

"Mr. Thomas made it clear on several occasions that he didn't think he worked for the county manager," she said.

When Valentine took her job in August 2006, Thomas was already under scrutiny because the hospital had failed to produce monthly financial reports for most of the year.

"It was very concerning to me," she told the jury.

Thomas blamed new accounting software for the lack of reports, though Valentine said other county departments produced the reports with the same software.

Valentine fired Thomas in January 2007 when an independent audit discovered the hospital had lost $34 million the previous fiscal year, almost double the $18.8 million loss that Thomas had given two months earlier.

Thomas faces charges of theft and misconduct by a public officer stemming from contracts UMC awarded to ACS Consultant Co., Premier Alliance Management, Crystal Communications, Frasier Systems Group and Las Vegas-based TBL Construction.

Prosecutors contend that the contracts went to Thomas' friends and associates from Chicago and were unnecessary and duplicated services that were already available using county or hospital resources.

The contracts cost taxpayers $11 million, he said.

Thomas' lawyer, Dan Albregts, says his client brought in his Chicago contacts because he had worked with them before and trusted they could help solve the major problems at UMC. Albregts says most of the people involved in the contracts were business associates, not friends, of Thomas.

Reilly, the former county manager who now heads the School of Social Work at San Diego State University, recounted Thomas' hiring and early success at UMC.

Thomas, who ran John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital of Cook County, formerly Cook County Hospital, in Chicago for 10 years, was recruited by a national search firm hired by Clark County to find a new hospital administrator.

Thomas was very successful in his first two years, limiting hospital losses to the budgeted amount, Reilly said.

"It wasn't until the third year when (monthly financial) reports weren't coming in when I started getting concerned," he said.

Reilly also recalled an issue on a UMC contract brought up by the county's chief financial officer and county counsel. He said that he couldn't remember the specific issue, but that it involved something Thomas had been told not to do and yet still did.

Also Wednesday, retired county lawyer Holly Gordon described her time working as UMC's legal adviser under Thomas.

He didn't like the district attorney's office's "interference," Gordon said, which an angry Thomas made clear during a lunch meeting she had with him and her boss, County Counsel Mary-Anne Miller.

He told them that he had to run the public hospital like a business but that state laws were getting in the way.

"He wanted us to help him get around the law," Gordon said.

Contact reporter Brian Haynes at bhaynes@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0281.

 

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