The local prosector has asked an outside attorney to review an investigation report into whether a conflict of interest law was broken at South Central Kansas Medical Center.
Cowley County Attorney Larry Schwartz said Thursday he will refer the case to Wichita-area attorney Michael Brown to avoid the appearance of his own conflict of interest in the case, because he also is serving as interim city attorney for the City of Arkansas City.
The medical center is a quasi-municipal institution, and city commissioners — who in September hired Schwartz to fill in as city attorney until the job is filled permanently — also serve as medical center trustees.
“This is just so I don’t have to debate it, just to make it above board and clear,” Schwartz said of his dual duties. “It’s just cleaner to do it this way.”
At issue at SCKMC are two hospital contracts with TransWise, a Texas-based healthcare consulting company.
SCKMC CEO Jeff Bowman was CEO of both Transwise and the medical center when those contracts — one for medical billing and one for outsourcing services — were entered into. Bowman has since resigned from Transwise, but the Kansas Bureau of Investigations looked into the matter and filed a report with Schwartz’ office for his review.
Kansas state law 75-4304 forbids a public official or employee from making or participating in contracts with companies in which they have a substantial business interest. Violation of the law is a misdemeanor.
Bowman and other hospital officials have said they were not aware of that law and that the contracts were done above board in the interests of the hospital.
Schwartz said that Brown is a well-experienced private attorney who has handled several other matters for the county in the past. He said Brown has agreed to take the case.
“It hasn’t been sent yet,” Schwartz said of the report. “I will be getting that to him, and based on his timeframe and caseload, he’ll be able to look into that.”