The Nevada Supreme Court screwed up when they reversed a district judge’s decision to dismiss criminal charges against former University Medical Center chief Lacy Thomas, his lawyers say.
Thomas, who was accused of mismanaging the hospital’s money by awarding $10 million in contracts to friends and associates of his from Chicago, was ordered by the high court in September to stand trial, again, after the case was tossed by Judge Michael Villani.
The Supreme Court held that prosecutors had provided sufficient notice in a 2008 grand jury indictment to Thomas regarding nine charges of theft and misconduct by a public officer.
But, lack of sufficient notice of the charges was not why Villani dismissed the case, Thomas’ lawyer Franny Forsman said in a nine-page brief to the Supreme Court.
The case was dismissed because “the conduct alleged either did not constitute a crime or the criminal statue was vague,” Forsman argued.
She said the high court “chose to follow the (prosecution’s) erroneous characterization of both the basis of the challenge and the basis of the dismissal.”
The court should re-hear the appeal arguments, Forsman said.
Clark County Chief Deputy District Attorney Jonathan VanBoskerck said in his own 10-page brief earlier this week that Thomas’ request for a re-hearing lacked merit and Villani used language indicating there was lack of sufficient notice as the basis of his dismissal.
The Supreme Court must next decide if it will grant a re-hearing of the original appeal arguments. It’s unknown when they will make that decision.
Thomas, who has denied all the charges, was fired 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 reported two months earlier.
Prosecutors were hoping for another crack at Thomas after his first trial ended in a mistrial because investigators did not give 577 pages of evidence to defense lawyers. Villani then dismissed the case, stating the charges were “unconstitutionally vague.”
Villani said the charges implied that any contract UMC or the county entered into that was beneficial to a vendor should be considered criminal.
In his decision, Villani asked why the vendors weren’t also charged if Thomas’ actions were criminal.
The judge said Thomas did not personally receive a private benefit from the contracts and that each original contract had to be vetted by UMC staff, a Clark County district attorney and county staff before being approved by Clark County commissioners.
Villani noted as “interesting” in his dismissal of the case that the county never sued any of the five companies that benefited from the contracts, including ACS Consultant Co., Frasier Systems Group, Premier Alliance Management, Crystal Communications and Las Vegas-based TBL Construction.
Rather, it was ACS that sued the county, which resulted in a settlement and the county forking over $595,000.
During the trial, Thomas’ lawyers argued that he brought in his Chicago contacts because he had worked with them before and trusted that they could help solve the major problems at UMC.
Most of the people involved in the contracts were business associates, not friends, of Thomas, his lawyers said.
Thomas, who ran Chicago’s John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital of Cook County, formerly Cook County Hospital, for 10 years, was hired in 2003 after he was recruited by a national search firm selected by the county to find a new hospital administrator.
Contact reporter Francis McCabe at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-380-1039.