Health agency socked with big verdict, Sen. Hutchinson faulted for legal work | Arkansas Blog

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Health agency socked with big verdict, Sen. Hutchinson faulted for legal work

Posted By on Tue, Feb 21, 2017 at 4:10 PM

click to enlarge SEN. JEREMY HUTCHINSON: On losing end of $358,000 default judgment. - BRIAN CHILSON
  • Brian Chilson
  • SEN. JEREMY HUTCHINSON: On losing end of $358,000 default judgment.

An article in the Batesville Guard says Health Resources of Arkansas has been ordered to pay $358,000 arising from lawsuit  by a former chief executive, David Coleman, who left the mental health services agency in 2012 but says he was never paid retirement benefits he was owed.

The judgment includes an unpaid retirement pay claim, an annuity, court costs and attorney fees.

The article by Angelia Roberts says Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson was attorney for HRA, which is now part of Preferred Family Healthcare. The article details many financial difficulties for HRA over the years.

A large part of the article concerns Hutchinson's failure to respond to filings in the case, a factor in the judge's decision for a summary judgment. Hutchinson told the Guard he'd failed to appear for a December hearing because of a communications breakdown. He said he was in legislative meetings and an assistant had told him a request for a continuance had been filed. The case had been continued once before.

"The court said they never received it," Hutchinson told the paper. "She insists she sent it. It's not a good situation."

If the name Health Resources of Arkansas or Preferred Family Healthcare rings a bell, there's a reason. The names have popped up periodically in coverage of the scandal over legislators' direction of General Improvement Fund money to nonprofits such as the mental health care provider.

An article in Monday's Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette outlined efforts by former Rep. Micah Neal to direct GIF funding to nonprofits, including a potential job training program and another health provider related to the Missouri-based Preferred Family Healthcare. The article detailed the relationship of a lobbyist for the company in the GIF matters. Preferred Family Healthcare has insisted it has clean hands and has paid no kickbacks, such as Neal has admitted receiving from unnamed parties.

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