Citizen challenges surgeon settlement, demands disclosure from Chippewa County, Montevideo

MONTEVIDEO -- Kevin Wald is asking the Chippewa County Board of Commissioners and Montevideo City Council to conduct an open review into a confidential settlement worth $2.4 million with a former hospital surgeon.

Kevin Wald on Tuesday asks the Chippewa County Board of Commissioners to open an investigation into why the Chippewa County-Montevideo Hospital approved a settlement worth $2.4 million with a surgeon formerly on its staff. The hospital is owned jointly by the city of Montevideo and Chippewa County. (Tom Cherveny / Tribune)

MONTEVIDEO - Kevin Wald is asking the Chippewa County Board of Commissioners and Montevideo City Council to conduct an open review into a confidential settlement worth $2.4 million with a former hospital surgeon.

"This is an open-disclosure, trust issue of the citizens' $2 million settlement money paid out," Wald told the Chippewa County Board on Tuesday afternoon. He brought a set of demands to the commissioners, and later Tuesday evening to City Council members, asking for public disclosure.

He said he wants the city's and county's attorneys to conduct the review of the settlement made by the Chippewa County-Montevideo Hospital. It is jointly owned by the city and county.

Wald also urged that the hospital Chief Executive Officer Mark Paulson be placed on paid administrative leave while the settlement is reviewed. Wald charges that the settlement contains a falsehood and that the public entities violated a state law by not disclosing the reason for the settlement.

A community member and business owner, Wald last month made public the settlement initially reached in August 2014 by the Chippewa County-Montevideo Hospital and Dr. Jared Slater.


A Montevideo native, Slater had served as a surgeon for the hospital and left after the settlement was finalized. The settlement offered a $2 million payment and the forgiveness of $400,000 in student loans.

Among other provisions of the settlement were requirements that the hospital provide a favorable letter of reference for Slater and advise three people not to "disparage'' Slater. Also, the parties are not to discuss the settlement.

Slater is currently chief surgeon with RC Hospital and Clinics in Olivia.

The Chippewa County Commissioners on Tuesday told Wald they had been advised by legal counsel not to comment or answer questions. They allowed him 15 minutes before an audience of over two dozen citizens to outline his concerns.

Wald told the commissioners that the hospital staff provides "fantastic'' medical care for the community, and noted the importance of the $37 million-a-year enterprise to the area.

But he said the hospital is facing serious issues. It has lost four medical providers over the last several months, and has been unsuccessful in efforts to fill 10 advertised positions.

There is infighting among staff and the hospital recently settled an age discrimination lawsuit brought by a former nursing director, Wald told the commissioners.

The hospital paid out $508,361 in consulting fees in the last year, as compared to $1,000 four years earlier. It paid its CEO $279,419 last year, part of a total of $1,057,502 in a four-year span, according to figures Wald obtained from the hospital and reported to the commissioners.


He asked that the city and county appoint a three- to five-member commission to review the 1955 charter under which the city- and county-owned hospital operates. And, he suggested that the city and hospital explore the possibility of its sale.

But he emphasized that he is concerned most about getting public disclosure for the $2 million settlement payment, which he described as the "largest single payout in the history of our town.''

Wald said legal counsel for Dr. Slater has served him with two cease-and-desist orders, and that he believes concern over possible litigation is preventing the public entities from discussing the settlement. He apologized to the surgeon's father, who attended the commissioners' meeting, and said that if the surgeon was harmed by the hospital, the payment is owed.

"My concern and everybody's concern is we don't know what happened, so how do we know if he was wronged?'' Wald told the commissioners. "It should be out in the public square and not the back alley or down the hallway.''

Wald carried a Bible to the speaker's podium, and at one point asked the County Board of Commissioner's representative to the hospital board if he was aware of any falsehoods in the settlement agreement. Commissioner Jeffrey Lopez said he had been advised by legal counsel not to respond.

What To Read Next
Get Local