A high-profile, multi-million dollar contract awarded to Dartmouth-Hitchcock has fallen under heightened scrutiny following the recent release of emails that appear to offer some insight into Dartmouth-Hitchcock’s bidding process, as well as raise questions about the Health and Human Services Commissioner’s conflicting statements.
The NHGOP has now claimed the newly-released emails show that the contract boils down to a “pay-to-play scandal,” and the group is seeking an investigation.
Back in September, the Executive Council approved a $36.5 million contract to Dartmouth-Hitchcock to manage New Hampshire Hospital, the state’s psychiatric facility. Dartmouth-Hitchcock was the lone bidder for this contract after Dartmouth College’s medical school, who had previously been contracted by the state to provide those services, chose not to renew.
A few days after the Executive Council approved the contract, Dartmouth-Hitchcock announced hundreds of layoffs set to take effect at the end of the year. The Council asserted that they had no knowledge about layoffs before approving the contract; Councilor Chris Sununu told the Concord Monitor that he was left “wondering whether they were waiting to seal the deal with the contract before they announced this because it would have put that contract at risk.”
Fueling skepticism about ulterior motives behind the Dartmouth-Hitchcock contract is the recent release of emails between Dartmouth College employees and state workers. NHGOP Chair Jennifer Horn says these emails illustrate a “pay-to-play scandal” in which “state employees blatantly colluded with Dartmouth-Hitchcock.”
According to InDepthNH, the emails “show New Hampshire Hospital Chief Medical Officer David Folks — employed at the time by Dartmouth College — worked directly with state employees to write the state’s RFP [request for proposal] to provide psychiatric staff at the hospital.”
“Emails between Folks, [New Hampshire Hospital Assistant Medical Officer Alex] de Nesnera (also employed at the time by Dartmouth College), New Hampshire Hospital CEO Robert MacLeod and COO Geoffrey Souther, both state Health and Human Services employees, show the four had discussed psychiatric and medical staffing at the hospital, including personnel qualifications for the RFP,” reported InDepthNH.
In one email, Folks wrote to Souther, “Geoff, I have provided two sentences for each of the personnel below. Let me know if you wish to have more detail as to the qualifications. David.” Souther had replied, “Excellent, thank you David.”
Another email from Folks discussed a “Proposed RFP Metrics” document.
Folks has since resigned, effective in January, following Dartmouth-Hitchcock’s layoff announcement.
For members of The Concerned Psychiatric Professionals of New Hampshire Hospital comprised of former New Hampshire Hospital staff, the emails are no surprise and solidify their accusation that Folks had involved himself in drafting Dartmouth-Hitchcock’s contract proposal. The group wrote to the Executive Council in June, claiming that Folks and de Nesnera worked not only on the state’s RFP but also on Dartmouth-Hitchcock’s contract bid.
In response to that claim, Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeffrey Meyers told the Council, “I want to state emphatically at no time do we let anybody outside the department (of Health and Human Services) write an RFP that we then issue. That’s not accepted practice and business is not done that way.”
Meyers was pressed by Sununu in June to state whether or not Dartmouth College employees had written the RFP or the contract, to which Meyers had replied, “I can state categorically that the RFP was produced internally at the department by the contracts unit and other staff.”
Horn is reportedly filing an official complaint with the Executive Branch Ethics Committee, calling for an investigation.
In a press release, Horn stated: “It is absolutely astounding that the governor’s hand-picked DHHS commissioner would blatantly lie to the Executive Council as they debated the Dartmouth-Hitchcock contract, saying that there wasn’t any collusion when we now find out that there was. And when reporters tried to get to the bottom of the situation by filing Right-To-Know requests, the response was heavily redacted, with 80 full pages completely blacked out. Employees are even resigning hours after Right-To-Know requests are filed, as David Folks did last month. This is a cover-up on a grand scale, and Governor Hassan should be ashamed.”