Mayor’s letter to US attorney general

Published 2:38 pm Friday, September 23, 2016

The following is a letter dated Sept. 17 from Belhaven Mayor Adam O’Neal to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch.

Dear Attorney General Lynch,

Justice Department Actions are Resulting in Needless Deaths

The first victim died 26 months ago.  Portia Gibbs was mother of two children and wife to Barry Gibbs.  We have now had many others die as no action has come from the Justice Department.

Your Justice Department just took courageous action to stop pipeline construction through a Native American burial ground in Cannon Ball, North Dakota.  We need the same type of courageous action in Belhaven, N.C..  The dead were being harmed in North Dakota, the living are being killed in North Carolina.

We are walking around the Justice Department to bring justice to the fight for the Belhaven, N.C. hospital.  We are here to stop the needless loss of life occurring in our hometown area.   We are not here to protest against the Justice Department.  We know you and your staff are very busy with many very important issues from around the country.  We are here to insist that a high priority to be placed on the complaints filed concerning the Belhaven Hospital.  As Mayor, I am compelled to be here because people are dying due to our Hospital and Emergency Room being closed through fraud.

Our Belhaven Hospital was closed by Vidant Health after they had taken over our hospital with the promise to “Strengthen and Maintain” our hospital.  Vidant Health, a non profit, closed our hospital in a year they made over $109 million dollars and had almost $700 million in reserves.  They closed our Critical Access Hospital leaving a 130 mile gap between hospitals in Coastal North Carolina.  Since the closure, Vidant Health has worked to stop the Belhaven Hospital from reopening.  Below is information about the 3 complaints filed with your Justice Department and what has been done to bring Justice to Belhaven.

Complaint 1

In October, 2013, a Title XI Civil Rights complaint was filed with your Justice Department.  The complaint addresses obvious racial bias motivating the decision Vidant Health made to close the Belhaven Hospital.  This huge corporation, wich happens to be a non profit, simply thought that due to our majority minority community no one would say anything about closing a hospital that serviced the poor and minorities.   In March of 2014, the Justice Department sponsored and presided over non binding mediation between the NAACP and Town of Belhaven against Vidant Health and Pantego Creek L.L.C..

The mediation agreement that was reached was quickly undermined by Vidant Health’s refusal to honor vital agreement terms. Vidant, instead, used the mediation as a public relations stunt to try and shift blame from themselves to the Town of Belhaven for the hospital closure.  They signed an agreement that they never intended to honor.

The Town of Belhaven spent over $100,000 in good faith to take over the hospital only to have Vidant Health undermine the honest efforts of the town.

Attorney Lynch your Justice Department has taken no further actions against Vidant.  Not a single investigator has been sent to Belhaven to our knowledge.  The mediator who was tricked by Vidant, just like the town, was reassigned likely due to political pressure.  The complaint is on someone’s desk in Atlanta who could care less about the poor and African Americans being discriminated against.  We need help to get this complaint moving again from you, Attorney General Lynch.

Complaint 2

This complaint addresses Judge shopping by Vidant Health and Pantego Creek L.L.C..  This complaint addresses the illegal removal of an African American Judge from the lawsuit between the Town of Belhaven and NAACP against Vidant Health and Pantego Creek L.L.C..

The Town of Belhaven and the NAACP filed a lawsuit against Vidant Health and Pantego Creek L.L.C. for unfair and deceptive trade practices as well as violations of Civil Rights under North Carolina law.  The Judge appointed to hear the case was African American Judge Toby Fitch from Wilson, N.C..  Judge Fitch caught a Vidant Health attorney lying to him on the first appearance in court to hear a motion for a Restraining Order to protect the hospital from demolishion.   Judge Fitch awarded the Restraining Order and set a court date to have a hearing for a more permanent injunction.

At the second court date, Vidant Health asked that the lawsuit be remanded to Federal Court.  No federal issues existed, so Judge Fitch saw this as purely a way to delay the proceedings.  Judge Fitch made the Vidant Health and Pantego Creek L.L.C. attorneys promise to keep the hospital building in a status quo condition until it would be decided where the case would be heard.  He made the attorneys verbally tell him they would see the property was not harmed.  Then during the several months it took to have a federal judge send the case back to State Court, Pantego Creek L.L.C. actual sold a piece of the hospital property.  They also cut off the air conditioning to the hospital in a hope to destroy the building through neglect.

When the case came back to State Court it was assigned once again to Judge Fitch.  Then, with no notice or legal process, the case was taken from Judge Fitch due to an anonymous complaint made to the sitting District Judge in Beaufort County, N.C..  The District Judge then asked the Chief Justice of the N.C. Supreme Court to appoint a judge to the case.  The Supreme Court Chief Judge then appointed a Judge from the western part of the state.  The Judge from the western part of the state then held a bizarre court in which he made aloof questions and once even told the NAACP that they had no right to sue on behalf of a class of people.  The judge threw out all the lawsuit to the astonishment of our attorneys.  We began to try and figure out what had happened and learned that the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court was from Greenville, N.C., the home of Vidant Health.

Your Justice Department has had this complaint for almost 6 months and has made no effort to investigate.  One of only a couple African American Judges in the whole state of North Carolina was taken off a Civil Rights case by White Judges without any due process.  Where is the outrage?  We know that once you, Attorney General Lynch, learn of this tragedy an investigation will begin.

Complaint 3

This complaint is about anti competition efforts and unfair trade practices engage in by Vidant Health and Pantego Creek, L.L.C.. The complaint addresses the many efforts they have made as a non profit to stop a hospital from reopening in Belhaven.  This complaint addresses the lobbying at the State Legislature of North Carolina to undermine needed support for the Belhaven Hospital to reopen.  It also addresses the many tricks Vidant Health and Pantego Creek L.L.C. have been involved in to undermine the Save Our Hospital effort.  Vidant Health not only closed our hospital but is working tirelessly to undermine the efforts to reopen our hospital.  We know that you, Attorney General Lynch, will look over this complaint and make sure no illegal competition activities are allowed in the future.

We are a small town that is fighting for our economic survival as well as our literal lives.  We need and deserve help from the Justice system.  Lack of action from the Justice Department has emboldened the criminal actions against our small town.  I have even had dead animals thrown on my properties because of my refusal to give up the fight for our economic and healthcare future.  We are enduring constant harassment from every state agency that can be politically pushed to attack us by the influence of Vidant Health and Pantego Creek, L.L.C..  I have even had dead animals thrown on my properties because of my refusal to give up the fight for our economic and healthcare future.  We need the laws to be applied that let all Americans be free of oppression due to greed and crime.  We need the laws to be enforced that protect minorities from being the victims of racism.  We need the laws enforced that stop the rich from Judge shopping until they buy their justice.  WE NEED HELP!!!!   We need you, Attorney General Loretta Lynch.

God bless you,

Adam O’Neal

Walking Mayor of Belhaven, North Carolina