NEW ORLEANS — Jefferson Parish government and officials have
on appeal against the embattled Jefferson Community Health Care
Centers, which sought to enjoin its eviction from parish-owned
The JCHCC, a federally-funded nonprofit established to provide
medical services to an underserved community following Hurricanes
Katrina and Rita, had claimed that the parish wanted it evicted
solely because it did not allow one of the council members "to
unlawfully influence JCHCC’s affairs,” according to court
In its Feb. 24 filing,
the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a finding from the Eastern
District of Louisiana that granted a preliminary injunction
preventing the parish from evicting JCHCC but allowing the injunction
to be terminated by showing that the needs of the medically
underserved would be met if JCHCC were evicted.
According to background information in the opinion, the parish
decided to allow JCHCC to use parish-owned facilities to restore
basic health services in the aftermath of Katrina and Rita. In 2006,
the JCHCC and the parish entered into an agreement that allowed it to
operate rent-free for 10 years at a facility in Marrero.
The agreement allowed for a five-year renewal at the end of the
term "unless any of the parties notify the other parties in
writing of its intent not to renew at least 60 days prior to the
expiration of the term then in effect."
For its occupancy of the Marrero facility, the JCHCC would provide
primary care as well as clinical preventative services throughout the
According to background information in the court opinion, JCHCC
and the parish entered into a separate agreement for free occupancy
of a facility in River Ridge on a month-by-month basis.
But following federal and state audits between 2009 and 2012,
officials “found widespread misconduct in JCHCC’s management,
including commingling and misappropriation of funds, improper lending
to employees, and overpayments to contractors,” the opinion stated.
The JCHCC’s then-CEO resigned after the audits, and the former
chief financial officer pleaded guilty to embezzlement.
The organization nearly lost its federal funding, and the Health
Resources and Service Administration of the Department of Health and
Human Services imposed a corrective-action plan that would require
the JCHCC to seek recoupment of the previously misspent funds, the
Dr. Shondra Williams, who led JCHCC following the audits, sent
demand letters to those who wrongfully received funds, including
JCHCC's former CEO and its attorney.
"Soon after sending the demand letters, Williams received a
fax message from the office of Parish Councilman [Mark] Spears with a
proposed resolution to terminate the Marrero CEA
[cooperative-endeavor agreement]," the opinion stated. "Williams
perceived the message as a threat precipitated by JCHCC’s
The opinion also said that Williams had alleged that Spears
requested she terminate the JCHCC's CFO who took part in an audit
that produced negative findings and appoint an acquaintance of Spears
to the governing board.
"On another occasion, Spears suggested that JCHCC should hire
an attorney of his recommendation," the opinion stated. "Spears
then told Williams that he would be interested in modifying JCHCC’s
CEAs to allow continued use of the Marrero facility only if JCHCC
satisfied his requests."
It also stated that Williams found out that Spears tried to
persuade several JCHCC board members to end her employment as CEO.
Action by the parish council in May 2016 resulted in the
termination of the lease agreement for the Marrero and River Ridge
The council advertised for prospective health-care providers, and
the only submission came from Ochsner Health System with JCHCC as
subcontractor. The council then twice extended deadlines for
proposals. In the meantime, JCHCC filed suit against Jefferson Parish
and various officials of its government.
According to the opinion, the district court held a hearing on
JCHCC's motion for preliminary injunction and, on July 26, 2016,
enjoined the parish from evicting JCHCC from the Marrero and River
Ridge facilities, but allowed the parish to “terminate the
injunction upon a showing that the medical needs of JCHCC’s
Medicaid patients would be met if JCHCC were evicted.”
The three-judge panel that included Judge James Dennis, Chief
Judge Carl Stewart and Judge Jerry Smith concluded that the JCHCC did
not establish a "substantial likelihood" of success on the
merits of "the only claim that is properly before us."