Metro’s finance director and the leadership of the city-funded Nashville General Hospital are at odds over the budget and whether federal relief funds were concealed as city leaders scrambled to finalize the city’s spending plan.
Finance Director Kevin Crumbo charges that the hospital intentionally concealed $9.4 million in relief funds related to the coronavirus during the budget talks. Earlier this week, his emailed accusations to the hospital’s oversight board were obtained by The Tennessean. Crumbo says the exclusion of the CARES Act funding casts “doubt upon the integrity” of Nashville General’s “financial reporting.” He wants the oversight board to investigate and the state comptroller to be alerted.
But shortly after the matter went public, the Nashville Hospital Authority dismissed the concerns at Thursday night’s regular meeting.
Board member Richard Manson, a Black attorney and former health care executive, even suggested the claim had racial undertones, given that the hospital is led by a Black CEO and serves primarily minority patients.
“The first thing they say about black people is, ‘we can’t trust them,’ ” Manson said. “That is a catchword.”
In various ways, he discredited Crumbo’s accusations and discouraged the board from even responding.
“The money wasn’t concealed. Hell, it’s in a bank account some place. So it’s almost like, ‘They’re going to steal the money or hide the money,’ which is a bunch of b.s. We’ve got to get ahead of this administration so they don’t put us in a position like [Mayor Megan] Barry did,” Manson said.
Former Mayor Megan Barry tried to close General Hospital, on the recommendation from the same person, Kevin Crumbo, who was a consultant at the time. Now he’s Mayor John Cooper’s finance director.
The hospital’s chief financial officer, Bruce Naremore, said that until June 15, the hospital didn’t know how much money it could get and that an unknown algorithm determined the final amount. Naremore says the hospital will still have to prove the money is used for coronavirus-related losses or costs, and he expects the hospital will only be able to keep half of the money.
Later the next day, June 16, the Metro Council took up the budget vote, ultimately finalizing it after midnight on June 17.
Naremore says he does not take “terrible offense” at Crumbo’s suggestion that he tried to hide the money to maintain the hospital’s subsidy in the city budget. Overall, the Metro budget included some cuts and a 34% increase to the property tax.
“I’m not happy about it, but that’s his opinion,” Naremore said.“You couldn’t pay me enough to do some of the things Mr. Crumbo has alleged … there’s no way in heck I would do some of the things suggested in this letter.”