Las Vegas Sun

September 30, 2014

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ANSWERS: CLARK COUNTY:

UMC painter blew whistle in ’05

Police took little action on his report of facilities thefts; hospital ‘brushed it under the carpet,’ he says

Beyond the Sun

We’ve got an interesting nugget this week about that Metro Police investigation at University Medical Center.

The one involving the county hospital’s former chief executive?

No, not that one.

The one involving the employee whom police say they caught stealing money from the public hospital last week?

No, not that one either.

Hmm. The one involving managers in the hospital’s facilities department?

Bingo. You’ll recall that two former UMC managers are accused of stealing hospital materials and enlisting UMC employees to work for their private businesses while on the public clock. At least that’s how it started when police began investigating last year, just after they raided the hospital as part of an investigation into — you got it — former Chief Executive Lacy Thomas. Now police have expanded their probe to include several contractors who might have been involved in the theft ring.

What about it?

Well, it turns out that some of the thefts were first reported back in 2005 — more than a year before the current investigation began.

Steve Jones, then a painter at UMC, walked up to Metro’s desk at Las Vegas City Hall in November 2005. According to the police report, he said one of the facilities managers and two of the employees whom police are now investigating had stolen paint, countertops, lumber, ladders, generators and patio heaters from the hospital. Jones also told UMC’s human resources department about the thefts, according to the police report.

If the police and UMC were told about the thefts, why didn’t they do anything?

Police closed the case 10 days later, though the report doesn’t say why. Officer Jose Montoya, a Metro Police spokesman, told us there was insufficient evidence. Because charges were not filed, he said, he couldn’t provide additional details.

As for UMC, hospital spokesman Rick Plummer said there was an employment-related investigation into the facilities department in October 2005. He said details about that investigation are confidential because it involved personnel issues. But here’s what he did say: “During the investigation, there was a comment made by an employee to human resources that involved inventory and contracting issues, but no concrete examples were given.”

He also said UMC didn’t know about the police report. “If UMC human resources had been made aware of potential thefts, HR would have conducted a separate investigation,” he said.

What does Jones say about those explanations?

The former UMC painter told us that when he went to police, they told him he needed serial numbers from the stolen goods for them to investigate further. He didn’t have that information.

He took issue with UMC’s version of what happened.

“They just brushed it under the carpet,” Jones said.

He said he reported the thefts to a human resources officer, who told him to tell hospital security about it. Jones said he told the human resources officer he couldn’t do that because the head of security and the facilities manager were buddies. They even swapped cars sometimes, Jones said.

What does UMC say about that?

Here’s Plummer: “When an employee alleges wrongdoing, human resources asks the employee to provide a written statement attesting to what they saw or know to be factual ... As I previously stated, Mr. Jones provided no specifics and UMC was never made privy to anything he may or may not have provided to Metro.”

Jones, however, told us he was never asked to provide human resources with a written statement.

More than a year passed before news broke in January 2007 that police were investigating accusations that Thomas had recommended lucrative do-nothing hospital contracts to his friends from Chicago. Thomas, who has since been indicted on five counts each of theft and misconduct by a public official, has denied any wrongdoing.

Jones said he decided to try the police again in February 2007. That time around, they showed more interest, he said.

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