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Paul Murphy / Eyewitness News
Email: pmurphy@wwltv.com | Twitter: @pmurphywwl

JEFFERSON, La. -- Jefferson Parish Council members are now going over a new inspector general's opinion on steps taken so far to select one of three suitors to run the parish's two public hospitals.

Inspector General David McClintock personally delivered his confidential report to council members late Friday.

The draft report, seen by Eyewitness News, points to a number of concerns expressed by McClintock.

Those concerns include questions about whether hospital consultant Kaufman Hall should be forced to make a final recommendation. That's something the firm was paid $1.3 million to do, but so far has failed to deliver.

The Jefferson Business Council weighed in on the same issue in a resolution sent to the JP council last week.

'Our members, who are both from the east and West Bank, felt very strongly that a recommendation should come out of the report and were confounded by the fact that it appears a stop had been put on that,' said JBC Executive Director Tony Ligi.

The inspector general also wants to know if Kaufman Hall made such a recommendation verbally, and if questions raised about possible conflicts of interest should lead to Kaufman Hall being scrapped and replaced with a new consultant.

Councilman Ben Zahn from Kenner is also asking questions about the possible verbal recommendation. He said based on email reviewed by his office, Kaufman Hall initially gave a verbal recommendation to both hospital chairpersons and CEOs.

The three suitors include Louisiana Children's Medical Center, HCA and Ochsner Health Systems.

'It's kind of funny in four-way conversation on the conference call it seems like everyone was OK, until the recommendation verbally was given,' said Zahn before the OIG report was released. 'Now, all of a sudden, we don't want one.'

Monday, West Jefferson Hospital Board Chairman Chip Cahill told Eyewitness News, 'I'm sorry but at this time we cannot comment on something that occurred in executive session or on matters covered by our confidentiality agreement. We are all working diligently to secure the future success and mission of our hospitals and we hope to have this matter resolved soon.'

The inspector general is also troubled that most discussions about the hospital partner were done behind closed doors. He is urging the JP Council and/or hospital boards to seek an attorney general's opinion on whether the so-called 'Enhanced Ability to Compete' exception to the Open Meetings Law applies to future action regarding the hospitals.

Kaufman Hall was also the consultant for the new University Medical Center now under construction in New Orleans. That public hospital ultimately decided to go with Children's as its private operator.

Council sources say the hospital issue is not expected to come up at Wednesday's regularly scheduled public meeting.

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