As I have written numerous times before the issues with Jim Valenti is centered on keeping you, the taxpayers, funding the El Paso Children’s Hospital while keeping its finances secret. By keeping its finances secret, taxpayer monies can be used for purposes outside of the purview of the taxpayers of the community. I wanted to find out if Susie Byrd is interested in government transparency so I put her to the test. As expected, she failed because her job at the children’s hospital is to help Veronica Escobar with the hospitals’ problems. (Yes, that is intended as plural hospitals)

Legally, the El Paso Children’s Hospital is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization. In other words, it is not a public governmental entity subject to open records requests. However, I believe that the hospital was originally constituted as a not-for-profit organization in order to keep its finances secret while allowing it to use taxpayer monies to operate.

Is the El Paso Children’s Hospital a taxpayer funded entity? In order to answer that we just need to remember that the children’s hospital was funded with a taxpayer funded $120 million bond election in 2007. To help me answer this question further I also reviewed the most recent IRS 990 tax returns for the children’s hospital I could find. It is the return that was filed for the tax year 2012. Of course, it is not about transparency so the tax return I found on the El Paso Children’s Hospital’s website is one for an entity named El Paso Children’s Physician Group.

According to that tax return, the children’s hospital had revenues of $228,767 in 2011 and $2,860,428 in 2012. The approximate $2 million in revenues are generated by the physician fees. The majority of that money is then spent on the salaries of the physicians and support staff. In this case, it was $2,455.829. As you can see, the incoming money was spent on the salaries to pay for the services leaving nothing for the debt service for the taxpayer bonds and much less the use of the University Medical Center services. As you all know, UMC is a taxpayer-funded entity.

What makes examining the finances of the El Paso Children’s Hospital even more difficult is that it is related and comingles monies with another not-for-profit organization. This one is named the El Paso Children’s Hospital. This tax return I had to go find somewhere else because the children’s hospital does not have it on their website.

Again, this return is for the tax year 2012. In this case, part of the revenues reported by the entity comes directly from “government grants,” in other words the taxpayers of the community. For 2012, the taxpayers paid $235,683, according to the tax return.

Unfortunately, it is not as simple as that because they lost about $13 million in 2012 and had accrued payables of about $64 million. It is likely that it will be the taxpayers of the community that will make up this shortfall. Everyone is obviously aware that the El Paso Children’s Hospital is in financial distress and there are ongoing negotiations between them and the University Medical Center, a taxpayer funded entity, on the future of the children’s hospital. Besides the future of the children’s hospital is also the amounts owed by that entity to UMC, also known as the taxpayers of the community.

Because of this I believe the question on whether the El Paso Children’s Hospital has been funded by the taxpayers of the community has been answered. It is also likely it will be funded by them in the future. In light of this, there is no question that any monies spent by the El Paso Children’s Hospital is of interest and importance to the taxpayers of the community.

Therefore, I asked a simple question, how much is the children’s hospital paying Susie Byrd for her public relations activities? Had the children’s hospital been a governmental body I would have availed myself of the Texas Public Information Act and filed an open records request. However, keep in mind that it is my assertion that the children’s hospital was constituted on purpose to use taxpayer monies without community oversight.

There is no doubt that Susie Byrd is a close friend of Veronica Escobar, they support each other politically, and I believe financially. I have written previously how nonprofits are used to incubate political operatives until they are ready to be used. There is nothing better than to incubate a political operative with taxpayer funds.

Knowing this and expecting the eventual response I got I sent Susie Byrd a fax and an email asking for information on her salary and the sources of funds for that salary. For good measure, I also tweeted to the El Paso Children’s Hospital Twitter account that I had submitted an open records request.

There is no doubt in my mind that Susie Byrd received my request.

My request acknowledged that I realized that the El Paso Children’s Hospital is not a governmental body and as such, it is not subject to the Texas Public Information Act. However, I asked her to consider my request as an open records request because the children’s hospital is funded by taxpayers’ monies and the community had a right to know how its money is being spent. I asked her to get back to me before the end of the day on December 9, 2014 because I wanted to write my piece for this week.

As I expected, Susie Byrd did not respond to my request , instead I received an email from Melissa Dugal. Ms. Dugal’s title is Manager Legal Services. In her email, which I received at about 4:00 pm (MT) yesterday, she writes that is not their procedure “to release information related” to their contracts. She added that they “respectfully deny” my request.

The only conclusion I can draw from her unwillingness to share the requested information is that Susie Byrd does not believe in taxpayer transparency nor does she value the taxpayer monies that are funding her salary. I also believe that her silence supports my notion that the El Paso Children’s Hospital is being sued by Veronica Escobar and cohorts as a taxpayer checkbook for their initiatives without having to account for how the money is being spent.

Keep this in mind as the El Paso Children’s Hospital fiasco ends up costing you more in the near future. I believe it is a cha-ching for Veronica Escobar and cohorts. Of course, at your expense.

You can download a copy of the letter I sent Susie Byrd by clicking this link.

Martin Paredes

Martín Paredes is a Mexican immigrant who built his business on the U.S.-Mexican border. As an immigrant, Martín brings the perspective of someone who sees México as a native through the experience...

4 replies on “Susie Byrd Agrees Taxpayers Should Not Know About Hospital Finances”

  1. Martin. While I tend to disagree that Ms. Byrd is the virtual “lap dog” of the County Judge (no disrespect by that term), I agree you are on the right track that Ms. Byrd’s salary is subject to disclosure under the Texas Public Information Act. I believe you have a good faith argument to submit a dispute to the County Attorney (who is responsible for mediating such disputes) that the Children’s Hospital is, by virtue of its public funding and relationship with UMC, covered by the Texas Public Information Act. The County Attorney may recuse her office here, due to a possible conflict, in which case you should be referred to the Texas Attorney General. The Texas Attorney General should, if they are doing their job, require the Children’s Hospital to respond about the mix of public vs. private support for the Chidlren’s Hospital. If Ms. Bird is funded through some public funding or another, then there is a shot that the AG will force the Children’s Hospital to release the information. If the Children’s Hospital is smart, they will want to avoid a ruling on this (because if they lose, they could forever be subjected to open records requests if they lose) and just give you the information you are requesting,, which is in the public interest and you are a member of the media requesting it. Playing defense and hiding here is not to their advantage. Thanks for the investigative work for the public’s knowledge – Pancho

  2. Two more thoughts. First, there may be value in pressing this issue. If you make your County Attorney/AG request on this, it will force the Children’s hospital to divulge their funding sources in terms of public vs. private funding. I suspect the insurance payments, medicare, medicaid, CHIP sources -even though they are “public” – would be considered private funding for purposes of this analysis. The AG will take a while to rule as well, so this will sorta be old news by then. Second, you should focus on how UMC is charging the Children’s Hospital. I keep hearing that the alleged debt is grossly inflated by Valenti overcharging the Children’s Hospital.

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