Friday, November 16, 2007

A Plea to John Sugg of Creative Loafing (UPDATED)

(For reference on this story simply hit the Emory University tag at the bottom and you can read everything that I have written so far)

Here is what I have learned so far about the corruption at Emory University, Grady Hospital, and the Atlanta area in large: a man of questionable character and/or competence is currently running the Florida bureau that specializes in providing health care to poor folks, a man of questionable character and/or competence is now running for Senator of the United States in Georgia (and leading in the Dem primary from what a few people tell me), Grady Hospital was home to an obscene amount of corruption that was only matched by the disposition of the case that followed, and and finally there is eye witness testimony to not only continued corruption at Grady, but tragically sub standard care and dangerous conditions.

As far as my own feelings, I feel that I have only scratched the surface on the curruption that goes on at Grady, Emory and beyond. How can so much corruption go on and no one know it? I firmly believe that much of the media is either in the tank for much of this, too scared, or maybe just too incompetent to report on it. Case in point: State Senator Charles Walker...he was convicted on 127 felonies, he received 10 years in jail without flipping on anyone, and finally no one but him, his daughter and the companies they ran were charged or convicted. Does this seem possible? Yet, very little has been said about this peculiar set of events in the media in Atlanta.

Here is another case in point. Here is a response by Kent Alexander and Tim Jefferson to an editorial by the AJC.

The AJC's Oct. 5 editorial "Come clean on lawsuit" resurrects (and misstates) old charges of conspiring to misuse government funds, charges the government reviewed seven years ago and declined to pursue. This has the devastating effect of casting public suspicion on two entities -- Grady Memorial Hospital and Emory University -- that are working together in an increasingly challenging environment to meet the health needs of the most vulnerable members of our society.

The editorial surprisingly calls on Emory and Grady to open the sealed settlement and court records in a case involving Dr. James Murtagh. For the record, Emory and Grady did not move to seal the record; Murtagh did. Emory had already supported unsealing the proceedings -- the complete, entire record -- as had Grady. We simply awaited the doctor and court's approval. Judge Wendy Shoob has since unsealed the record, which is now of course fully open to the public. The real victim in all of this is Grady, the largest public health hospital in the Southeast. Grady is struggling to survive while misinformation circulates that, unintentionally or intentionally, diverts attention from the real issues.

Now, what they are referring to is Jim Murtaugh and a suit in which Grady and Emory paid Murtaugh about 1.6 million dollars and he along with Emory and Grady each had air tight language in which no one could talk to anyone. Now, when someone gets paid off and told to keep quiet, where I come from that is hush money. According to Jefferson and Alexander it was Murtaugh, not their side, that wanted to records from the case sealed. Obviously, it is ludicrous to believe that the person being hushed is the one pushing to keep the records sealed. Furthermore, since they know that he has to stay quiet he is an easy target. Finally, since the agreement calls for both sides to keep mum, it is this non lawyer's opinion that this response breaks the very agreement that they are referring to. There's more.

Now, do you want to know how corrupt the media is? That editorial as well as the response is no longer available on the AJC's site. (Don't believe me click the link and then click the link that says, Come Clean on the lawsuit, you will get to an empty page) In fact, the response I found is on a site run by Emory and no doubt that will be eliminated as soon as Emory gets wind of this piece. (I referenced the editorial at least twice and the link leads you nowhere each time. It also leads you nowhere from the Emory site I found that currently though I suspect not for long still has their response to the now absent editorial.)

I was told that there maybe a beacon of independent journalism in Atlanta. There maybe one news organization that is more interested in the truth than making friends and contacts and limiting powerful enemies. I was told that news organization was Creative Loafing. I was even heartened when they wrote a piece that referenced my blog. Unfortunately, since then they have remained quiet despite breaking news by me, State Senator David Shafer, and frankly the growing chorus of concern about Grady Hospital (which may go under and will certainly need up to nine digits in tax payer money to stay open).

Thus, I was moved to write this to the editor, John Sugg,

Mr. Sugg,

My name is Michael Volpe and I am writing to you regarding coverage of the corruption at Grady Hospital. A few weeks back your online arm wrote an article about Kevin Kuritzky. That article referenced a piece on my blog, I received a fairly large amount of traffic coming over from your site. I was glad to see that there was an outlet in Atlanta that had the courage to bring this story in the open. Since then, I have broken several pieces of important information on my own blog. Senator David Shafer broke some important information as well, and your paper has not followed up at all.

With all due respect, it is NOT good enough to simply go through the motions on this story but to take it wherever it leads because its tentacles are everywhere. Did you know that the former CEO of Grady Hospital, Dr. Andrew Agwunobi, the same CEO that was employed when an HHS report was issued saying this, “the patients at Grady are in serious and immediate danger”, is now head of the AHCA in Florida? Did you know that prior to that he was on the board at WellCare? Did you know he cashed out one million bucks worth of options after only six months? Finally, did you know that his bureau, the AHCA, is among several currently investigating WellCare? Guess what, the stock plummeted right after he cashed out.

If you publish one story about the terrible plight of Kevin Kuritzky, pat yourself on the back for standing for the little guy and then move on, that is frankly not good enough.

I hope you will take a minute and read my latest piece. I hope after reading it you
appreciate just how deep the corruption most likely goes and then realize that the only way to break it all, is for non stop and intense media coverage.

I firmly believe that those involved in the corruption at Grady and beyond it are bad, really bad, and they aren’t going to give up power without the biggest battle they can put on. Putting out one article and then going away does nearly nothing. Kevin told me that he believed your organization to be a model of independent and uncorrupted journalism in Atlanta. I believe that is rare if non existent in your city. You can prove me wrong by following this story wherever it leads not merely popping your head up to report a small bit and going away.

Now, I call on everyone else to help me fight this battle to expose what is really going on. Everyone that reads please send Mr. Sugg an email here and insist that Creative Loafing be the model of independent, fair and honest journalism in Atlanta. Demand that Creative Loafing take this story wherever it goes not just where they want to lead it. A lot of people have sacrificed a lot, some with their lives, in trying to expose and root out the corruption that is going on. The powers that be won't go down without a fight and they won't go down if they know the media is in their back pocket. So far, the evidence I have seen tells me at least that the media is, however Creative Loafing can change that and you can help them do it.


I realize that anyone that picks up this story at any of its individual part like this particular piece will likely be confused. Thus, I have put together a summary of the entire fiasco that tries to put all of its moving parts together in one piece. Please read it for guidance. Also, please check out the recommendations that I and my colleagues have put together for fixing Grady Hospital.

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