The hospital campaign's tangled web
COLUMBIA, Mo 4/3/15 (Beat Byte) -- A donation from billionaire Wal-Mart heir Bill Laurie to the Jerry Kennett for Boone Hospital Trustee campaign is raising eyebrows -- and more questions -- about the fate of a $2.3 million annual payment from BJC Healthcare to lease the hospital from county government.
Laurie's donation --- $2,500 -- is the largest contribution Kennett's campaign has received to date, according to Missouri Ethics Commission filings.
Laurie and his family own most of the land -- 276 acres -- around the defunct Boone County Fairgrounds, which has a history of receiving money from Boone Hospital profits at the direction of County Commissioners who oversee the property.
Kennett supports the status quo, sending the BJC lease payments to the County Commission, for use as they see fit.
His opponent, Robert Doroghazi, "has been adamant that the County Commission’s annual $2.3 million share of the lease should stay with the hospital and not become part of the county’s general fund," the Columbia Daily Tribune reported.
Money from Boone Hospital was over 75% of the $2.6 million Boone County Commissioners used to buy the fairgrounds site in 1999, a move that cost then-Presiding County Commissioner Don Stamper his job
"Improvements made to the fairgrounds site saddled the private, not-for-profit Boone County Agricultural and Mechanical Society with $2.6 million in debt, forcing it to sell, " the Tribune reported in a retrospective of Stamper's political career. "The county bought 134 acres of the original 214-acre site, using general revenue funds and $2 million in profits from Boone Hospital Center. Tom Atkins bought the remaining 80 acres."
Taxpayers rejected a multi-million "fairgrounds tax" last year to spruce up the flagging fairgrounds, which could become a major "development anchor" for hundreds of new homes and businesses in subdivisions long planned for the area.
Three other anchors are already in place. Developer and tax credit mogul Jeff Smith donated a city park; St. Charles Road Development Group principal Tom Atkins donated an 80-acre ball field; and Columbia Public Schools built Alpha Hart Lewis Elementary, each almost within walking distance of the fairgrounds.
The Lauries -- at last count worth $4.1 billion -- picked up the fairground acreage after developer Herigon Construction defaulted on debt owed to Premier Bank.
Laurie also bought Premier Bank after it failed. It is the same bank that sued Kennett for defaulting on a $1.3 million loan with another Columbia developer, Jose Lindner.
Other developers contributing to Kennett include Atkins ($1,000) and Cross Creek builder Dave Dunafon ($2,000). Yancy Williams, a well-known Republican political consultant who designed the campaign against Columbia's Proposition 2 for higher development fees, donated $250.