Letter to the editor: Pungo Medical ad was misleading

Published 5:24 pm Monday, March 7, 2016

To the Editor:

This past weekend, your readers were treated to a full-page ad from the Board of the Pungo Medical Center LLC (Page 7A). I am writing to address some of the misinformation in the ad and to decry the attempted use of veterans as pawns in a devious scheme to acquire the old Belhaven hospital property.

The Pantego Creek LLC mentioned in the ad is the community-based group that owns the old hospital property. Contrary to what was said in the ad, it continues to be made up of over 100 members representing many families that have contributed and otherwise supported the hospital during its 60-plus year history. They have legacy and legitimacy in their stewardship of the property. Several years ago, when the Pantego Creek LLC faced a decision on the future of the financially failing hospital, the members voted overwhelmingly (79 to 23) to go with Vidant Health’s proposed plan to build a new state-of-the-art clinic to replace the hospital rather than the proposal made by Mayor Adam O’Neal’s (town-paid) consultants to continue operations of the old facility.

Since losing the Pantego Creek LLC vote, the mayor’s battle to “Save Our Hospital” has severely divided the town, drained the town treasury, and promoted the worst image of the town from Raleigh to Washington, D.C. Now he and his allies have sunk to a new low by playing to our strong support for veterans to try and defame and shame the four Pantego Creek LLC managing members, all outstanding members of the community, into “giving” his Pungo Medical Center LLC the old hospital property. The disgust and pushback in the community to this ad should be totally understandable. If the companies seeking to set up care facilities for veterans are serious in their interest in Belhaven as a good location, they should be speaking with the actual owners of the property.

The LLC that claims responsibility for the ad, the Pungo Medical Center LLC, was created by the mayor with himself as its chairman (signing as the Mayor of Belhaven) and his hand-picked board members approved by the Town Council (controlled by the mayor). Now, we are being told to believe that there is no connection between the town and the mayor’s LLC, and, therefore, there would be no potential liability to the town for loans or other activities of the LLC. In reality, the town taxpayers have paid hundreds of thousands of dollars and are still paying right now to try and acquire the old hospital property for the mayor’s LLC. Expenditures have included large amounts for obscure consultants, Raleigh lawyers and “walking expenses” for the mayor. Any obligations incurred but not paid, such as deferred attorney invoices, will eventually have to be paid by the town (USDA loan funds cannot be used for these purposes). Under the mayor’s scheme, the town pays the expenses and his LLC (which has invested nothing) ends up with the deed to the old hospital property, which he says will then be used to secure millions in federal government loans. What a deal for Belhaven and federal taxpayers.

Anyone should be able to see that the scheme is a scam, worthy of the Chicago mob, and it has no place in our state. It also represents a severe conflict of interest by the mayor for which he should be held accountable.

Thank you for this opportunity to respond to this misleading ad. I hope we will soon see the day when everyone in Belhaven will be working together to build and embrace a bright future, including the best healthcare available, for our beautiful part of North Carolina.


Bill Iler